Red, White and Blue: Holiday patriotism and the BNP Youth broadcast

Holly Willis 15 May 2014

We British are quick to grumble. Everything is too expensive, it rains and there are endless queues. We claim dramatically that we would give ANYTHING to live somewhere sunny. And so, we go abroad.

You can't see the rain from up here                                                                     Credit: abdallahh   

Ironically enough, a Brit abroad is at their most patriotic. After approximately five minutes on foreign soil, an all-consuming desperation for a good cup of English tea inevitably sets in. Things are still too expensive, but this time it’s too hot and no one knows how to wait in line. And the further away we get from the UK, the stronger this becomes. Suddenly, most of us couldn’t be more proud to be British. Fish and chips? That’s our thing. Pippa Middleton’s bum? Britain made that. It is a very curious phenomenon

But patriotism has a much darker and more unsettling side. I remember one summer afternoon, my six-year old cousin, from California, took it upon herself to recite to me the Pledge of Allegiance. Despite her adorable Dora the Explorer-esque accent, I was disturbed. It was like observing a member of a very cute, very pink cult. I am all for national pride, but this just felt wrong.

At the age of six, she thinks militant patriotism is entirely normal. The US government claims that any person is at liberty to reject the ideas expressed in the pledge, but it is so culturally engrained that disagreeing is not always easy. Democracy is about challenging authority, and I worry that my cousin and many others may grow up without the confidence or inclination to do so. There is patriotism, and there is indoctrination. This hints at the latter.

Liberty and justice for all?                                                                                   Credit: Jon Dawson

In 2003, just before the bombing began in Iraq, lead singer of ‘The Dixie Chicks’ Natalie Maines spoke to fans in London: “we don't want this war, this violence, and we're ashamed that the President of the United States (George W. Bush) is from Texas”. Her statement provoked outrage. The broadcasting company Clear Channel Communications banned country music stations from playing their music. Their songs plummeted down the charts, and Maines received death threats. And all because of what ABC News termed a ‘perceived lack of patriotism’.

For a country so insistent on the value of free speech, America did not practice what she preached. The band was accused of disrespecting and insulting the soldiers who fought for their country, criminalised for daring to voice an unpopular opinion. Yet Toby Keith’s song about the Iraq War entitled ‘Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue’, containing lyrics such as ‘we’ll put a boot in your ass, it’s the American way’, was a hit.

But it’s not just an American problem. The recent BNP Youth broadcast is a sickening example of young, impressionable people ‘fighting back’ against Islam, ‘heartless Zionists’ and ‘militant homosexuals’ who ‘destroy the traditional family unit’. The BNP is the ultimate ‘you can’t sit with us’ party, and their youth broadcasts make the Pledge of Allegiance look like a nursery rhyme. Its members are not patriotic, they are nostalgic for a time of narrow-minded prejudice. Patriotism is not rooted in the past, but in the present; we should be proud of a country for what it is now. True patriotism means accepting the diversity and multiculturalism of the modern world: understanding that individuals build a country, not the other way around.