It is, of course, also St George's Day – not just in England, but in a number of other countries around the world. And he's also supposed to be the patron saint of syphilitics and those suffering from a number of other sexually transmitted diseases. He was, by all accounts, a religious fundamentalist.
So when I want to celebrate the best of England and Englishness, I'll think of something else instead – something actually English would be a start.
It does a raise a number of interesting questions, though:
- the nature of patriotism and nationalism;
- whether one can celebrate the best of one's country, remaining realistic about the worst of it, without falling into nationalistic attitudes;
- whether choosing not to – or rather, if one disdains those who do want to celebrate, you drive them to more extremist attitudes and into the hands of extremists;
- whether one should actively use occasions such as this to promote the best things – tolerance etc. Whether, indeed, to reclaim such a day from extremists (if it needs reclaiming).
Whatever – I'll raise a glass this evening to Bill – our national poet, the greatest and most influential playwright ever, and an export of which we can justifiably be happy.
So, to anyone else who wants to celebrate – happy St George's Day. And to those who don't – have a good day too.