Today is St George’s Day. As most people in Britain know, St George is the Patron Saint of England and his flag is also the national flag of England. But George isn’t the exclusive preserve of the English. As a patron saint, he’s rather popular all over Christendom – Georgia (the name’s just a coincidence), Portugal, Malta, Ethiopia and plenty of cities and regions. His status as a soldier saint (rather a contradiction in terms, I would have thought) may explain his popularity. Everyone loves a dashing hero, especially one that goes around slaying dragons and rescuing maidens. Of course, George wasn’t English either. He was born in Roman Judea and his father came from Cappadocia in present day Turkey.
George rose in the ranks to become a member of the Emperor Diocletian’s personal bodyguard but came a cropper when he refused to renounce his faith. George was rather handy with his fists and the Emperor virtually begged him to drop the whole Christian thing (or at least keep quiet about it) but mouthy George wasn’t having it. He was martyred in AD 303, enduring a slow and horrible death.
I’m not much into the trappings of nationalism, though I am quietly patriotic. I have written before that it’s fine to be proud of where you are from, it’s not fine to think you’re a cut above the rest. The English Defence League (EDL) and other right-right nutters have rather hijacked and debased the symbols of English nationhood. Consequently, people like me wouldn’t dream of waving the Flag of St George in the same way that the Irish, Scots and Welsh proudly display their own national emblems.
I’m hoping the EDL thugs will eventually slide back to the bottom of the pond. Their travelling circus of clowns is looking increasingly thin and desperate. I really can’t take seriously those who think that The Royal Pavilion in Brighton, the pleasure palace built in oriental style for George IV, is a huge mosque. Oh, the irony. The best way to counter the idiotic is with ridicule because the EDL is ridiculous.