On Nationalism and the Intolerance Around Brexit

Quite recently the issue of national identity was raised in my class.

Now as someone who takes a great deal of pride in my British nationality, my beliefs tend to cause a bit of a stir whenever I voice them (for reasons I will soon get into) and as a result I’m no stranger to the usual myriad of offense taking and name-calling that usually goes on in these kinds of discussions.

But surprisingly the discussion remained civil throughout. There were, of course, many disagreements but the conversation itself was quite productive and never ended up in hostilities as conversations like it so often can these days.

At least that’s what I thought before arriving home to find that one of my classmates had tweeted publically about me. I found this surprising as if they’d had a problem with what I was saying they had ample time to challenge it during the chat. But apparently I was wrong. 

Despite repeatedly saying the Nazis were a cautionary example of nationalism gone too far and NOT something that was in any way good throughout the conversation, I was at best labelled a Nazi sympathiser and at worst called a Nazi myself simply for expressing pride in my country. Of course this was done indirectly by not naming me so I only heard about it thanks to other people telling me.

In the grand scheme of things, this tweet may seem harmless. Putting aside the disingenuous, cowardly, lying attempt at slandering me to my peers, the world will hardly stop spinning because of it. However, this single tweet demonstrates a common and unpleasant ideology shared not just by a majority of students but also politicians, journalists and the media at large.

This ideology likes to label those who in any way express their patriotism or pride to be British as not only wrong, but condemnable and even criminal.

To test this, just say you want to promote traditional British values, restrict immigration or anything that’s not in line with the PC ideal we are so often told and wait for the ‘you’re a fascist/ racist/ xenophobe’ etc. comments to come rolling in. It’s almost comical the amount of vitriol one can attract from all kinds of people simply for expressing beliefs held by many normal people in the UK and abroad.    

It may sound ridiculous to some, but this is one of the major reasons why we’re now faced with Brexit. Regardless of your opinions on it, Brexit gave people a chance to feel British again. They could finally express their beliefs openly amongst others who shared them across the country. This is after years of being told they were wrong for doing so and it is no surprise that some would take it to extremes.

Were the attitudes expressed so toxically by people like the one above not so pervasive in our society, I do not believe that Brexit would be happening now. It is precisely because people’s desire to belong in their own nation has been suppressed for so long that they have now galvanised into such a dramatic act of separation.

People need to realise that those who wanted Brexit are not evil bigots simply for wanting it. And they need to realise that to be proud of your country and its potential to be its own entity does not make you a Nazi. It simply makes you a person who cares about what happens to the place and people that have raised you and enabled you to live the life of opportunity that you have.

Perhaps it is time for some of us to stop labelling and start listening.

Now I’m done, bye

Comments

I had a conversation over the summer with someone on holiday on a similar subject about how the whole idea of patriotism is something we now associate with the far right, especially in Britain.

The example we came to was the difference between someone in America having the Stars and Stripes paraded outside their house and someone in England having the St George's Cross (rather than the Union Flag) in their bedroom window. In one we'd associate it with that rather stereotypical love of 'Murica', and yet over here we'd associate it rather more with something like the EDL. (Emily Thornberry's rather condescending tweet 'an image from Rochester' after UKIP won that by-election in 2014 is one example of that line of thinking) And sure the far right do like to dress up as Crusaders and walk around with England flags, but outside of football tournaments we do seem to have allowed those particular extremists to entirely appropriate our country's flag for themselves, and it's odd to wonder why that is. 

By George Nixon