St George’s flags have been appearing on cars this week and the World Cup hasn’t even started yet. Oh! it’s St George’s day. Some want to make it a holiday. Some want to claim the saint as the champion of englishness. But as Jonathan Bartley suggests in his article in the Guardian, if we were to truly celebrate our patron saint it isn’t nationalism we’d be celebrating.
His Christian faith led him to forsake his status and wealth in order to confront the Emperor Diocletian with his persecution of a minority. He eventually paid with his life. This is the story of St George’s that we need to rediscover. We lack a subversive saint who champions the cause of the underdog, the misfit, the little guy who dares to speak out against the powerful.
The dragon St George confronted was more like the beast of Revelation – an imperial power to be resited. He stuck up for a minority group and confronted an oppressive power.
St Georges’s Day should become a Day of Dissent when we mark and celebrate the noble, alternative English tradition of rebellion against the abuse of power (the pro-democracy Putney Debates, the equality-seeking Levellers, the anti-slavery abolitionists, the women’s suffrage movement, conscientious objectors and peacemakers, anti-racism campaigners, human rights activists, those struggling against debt and poverty, and many others).
It would be great to have an extra national holiday to celebrate this kind of englishness, but I fear those who want such a day have not realised that the one they champion is so interested in minority groups and subverting the powerful.
Photo from Johnny Vulkan on flickr