Flying the flag?

How do you feel about flag flying? I don’t often stick my head above that political parapet but I’ve always been very suspicious about people and places who feel the need to fly a flag. I think it dates from when I visited Northern Ireland where flags are everywhere and then some months later the first time I was in France I noticed that the town hall doorways were flanked by enormous flags. I think it’s a manifestation of basic insecurity if you have to do things like that.

Recently there have been various Conservative MPs on TV seemingly vying with each other to see who can have the biggest and fanciest display of union jacks/flags – in their own homes – strategically placed for their webcams. Honestly I felt embarrassed for them and the TV journalists couldn’t help having a wee bit of fun with them. Those MPs must feel deeply insecure!

Anyway, to make matters even worse the news today is that all government buildings in the UK have been told they must fly the union flag. Previously they were only flown on around twenty days a year. It’s more than a wee bit worrying that in the middle of a pandemic there must be people in power who are wasting time on nonsense like this. It’s so obvious that they’ve been watching the copious displays of flags during the recent US elections and for some reason feel the need to emulate them.

You can read about it in this Guardian article.

It’s rather unfortunate that the union flag has been hijacked by the British fascists over the years, but then it seems that the Tory party has also been hijacked by them. It’s just very sad that David Cameron didn’t realise that himself and was so out of step with his party that he was clueless to the danger he was putting the country in when he caved in to them and had the EU referendum.

This building in Perth has a lovely array of wee flags, it has them all, or as many as they can fit on it anyway and they’re of equal status, click on it to enlarge it.

Perth, Scotland

It was Samuel Johnson who said that “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”. – Enough said.

21 thoughts on “Flying the flag?

  1. Look at the U.S.A. Flags outside ordinary houses as a matter of course. You need to show your fellow countrymen that you are patriotic?

  2. Flags are flown on public buildings here, and by many businesses, and in some private gardens. Proud to see a flag that has meant so much to many generations.

    • Valerie,

      I’m wondering if it’s a sort of ‘New World’ thing, presumably you had the Union flag to begin with so you’re now happy to have your own flag. Apart from anything else flags don’t last long in our weather, wet fabric tends to get torn by the wind so it’ll be added expenditure for councils who have no spare cash at all.

  3. I guess it’s a matter of different cultures; all government buildings fly the USA flag and as well as fly their respective state’s flag as well, it has never bothered me. My neighbors who fly flags on their houses are an equal mix of staunch supporters of both major political parties. Oftentimes a flag on a house denotes that a veteran of the armed forces lives there; I’m not about to start disrespecting their service, regardless of my private opinions on the ethics of the conflicts they were involved in.

    • Christine,

      Yes very different cultures. I think that if I had someone flying a huge Union jack next door to me I might be suspecting them of being the opposite to what they’re advertising – spies. Maybe I read too much!

  4. I have always thought that it’s Republics that are obsessed with flags, not having a Crown to swear loyalty to ( as in our Armed Forces).

    • Janet,

      I think you’re right. It seems strange to me to be swearing allegiance to a piece of fabric, no matter what its design, but I suppose if you’re brought up doing that then it seems normal.

    • My country is not a republic: oaths of allegiance are to Her Majesty the Queen.
      Our flag includes the Union flag representing our history, and evokes the values for which we strive – including freedom.

      • Valerie,
        Of course it’s the US that pledges allegiance to a flag – every morning before classes start in school I believe – but – each to their own.

  5. I have always thought that displaying a flag ostentatiously is a sign of deep insecurity. This is particularly so in the case of Northern Ireland because both sides there feel under threat. In France I suspect – like Janet – it’s because they got rid of their monarchy. In their case, twice; plus an emperor, Napoleon III.
    As for flying flags on houses or in gardens I think that it’s a not so subtle way of saying, “I’m a better and bigger patriot than you,” which is actually downright insulting to others who feel a strong attachment to their country but not the need to put it on show.
    For politicians to do it inside their own houses is just laughable.
    There are also of course the unpleasant connotations associated with massed flag processions. In Britain I associate the flaunting of the flag in this way with the National Front, a deeply disturbing organisation in its day. And its successors in the practice are no better.

    • Jack,

      I completely agree. I think that some people have wanted to reclaim the Union flag/jack from the NF but the politicians trying to outdo each other flag wise is just ridiculous.

    • I see the display of a flag as a sign of pride in one’s country and in the things it stands for.

      When I see flags in people’s gardens I think “good on you”.
      When a country experiences major events – tragic or good – or even just day-to-day, seeing the flag is a source of pride and stability and a reminder that we are one nation.

      I wonder if the NF may have had more media attention than is warranted by its share of the vote.

      • Valerie,

        I think that the NF have media attention because one of their incarnations murdered a female MP in a street when she was leaving a meeting with constituents. Of course the trolling and constant threats to women in the public eye tend to be done by men of that ilk.
        I think a few years ago you had a vote in NZ about changing your flag to a new design featuring that very elegant fern, or was it just spoken of but not voted on?

  6. I have a flag on the wall behind me. I’m French but I’m also Bretonne – from Brittany in France. For me, it’s a tribute to my family, a reminder of the place that I hope to retire to someday. The original language, the strong culture have been trampled on by the French government for centuries (“it is forbidden to speak breton and to spit on the floor”, as if it was the same ; a “plouc” is still a stupid countryman in today’s language), is very dear to my heart. People of my grandparents’s generation were ashamed to be who they were because of that. It’s my origins, it’s a part of me that has been denied and put to shame so I’m proud of my roots and I show it in my home. Brittany has a strong identity, everybody in France knows that now 🙂

    • Iza,
      That’s a very good reason for having a flag in your home. It sounds like the Bretonnes have been treated the way Scots were in the past by the English/British government. Parents couldn’t teach their children Gaelic as the language was banned and people would be killed for using it, now there are less than 80,000 Gaelic speakers despite a lot of money being poured into teaching it in recent years. Also tartan fabric was banned for years so people couldn’t wear the national costume. Then Scots and Scotland became popular, helped by Walter Scott’s writing and then Queen Victoria and Albert. I suppose the Romans didn’t help as they hated Celts, I believe that Bretonnes are also Celts! When I was at school we were physically punished for using Scottish words. The teachers used a tawse – a heavy leather belt with tongues at the end and they whacked your hands with it – up to six times!

  7. I found it laughable that the SNP has chosen to fly the EU flag while wrapping themselves in the Saltire too. I agree, excessive patriotism is a dangerous thing.

  8. It is quite likely that for some people, flag-waving is indeed a sign of insecurity, of which they are probably completely unaware — e.g. in the US at least, those who have traditionally held the power and now feel threatened, that it is being “taken away” from them — or as women and minorities see it, “re-distributed more equally.” I don’t think I need to mention any names …

    But I also remember an interesting discussion I had many years ago with an expat Englishwoman I was good friends with, who remarked one day, exasperated, “Why are Americans so obsessed with the flag?” (I think the impetus for this remark was our flag etiquette, not letting it touch the floor, burning it respectfully when worn out, etc.) I said that I felt it has much to do with our having had to fight for our independence, for the very existence of our country, not just in 1776 but again in 1861-65, hard-won both times. When lives have been given for the right to even have a nation, the symbol for it becomes much more meaningful.

    I see that in the Northern Irish flag-flying, too, a struggle that in many ways is still going on, and in Iza’s comment above about the Bretonne flag — not a weak kind of insecurity, which is the impression I’m getting from the word in previous comments, but a sort of recognition of the fragility of independence and nationhood not yet won.

    Here in California at least, the Pledge of Allegiance is still said in schools every morning, but there is not as much “hand on heart” recitation as when I was in school a generation or so earlier.

    • Jeanne,

      I had no idea about your flag etiquette, I’m wondering how a flag can be burnt with respect. I have never understood why that Confederate flag wasn’t banned after that war, especially when it must be so threatening to many in the US, but I suppose it’s the many with no power. In Germany Nazi flags were banned as are symbols linked with that regime. Northern Ireland not only has the flags but also painted kerbs red, white, blue versus green, white and gold and massive murals on buildings. I don’t see that religious problem improving much while they insist on having separate schools. With the Bretonne flag I don’t thinks it’s insecurity, it’s a sign of opposition/resistance to the powers that be. Here in Scotland the saltire is mainly used by football fans when Scotland play although it is flown from some large buildings, especially in Edinburgh, probably mainly for the tourists, but being ordered to fly the union jack from all government buildings will annoy many people, especially those hoping for a referendum on independence. Boris Johnson has used £2.6 million of tax payers money to ‘do up’ a room in Downing Street as a special place to give press briefings and it looks like the only difference is the two large flags at the back of the room! So un-British in reality, we prefer under-statement – or we did.

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