Patriotism is a word not often discussed by the progressive left. Normally, it has been the safe ground of the right, with the Conservative Party having proudly incorporated the Union Jack into their logo. The left have avoided the issue, largely because we understand the nation to have ‘evolved’ naturally. There is a progression from an imperfect past to a perfect future. Conversely, the political right are happy to gloss over dark parts of history, as justification to slow progress. But I don’t think we can allow them to hold this issue, we need to grab it back and be proud of who we are.
I’m proud to be British and I’m proud of our nation. I’m proud of a nation where I can sit in my dining room and write articles that are critical of my government. I’m proud that anyone can be whoever they want to be, talk to whoever they want to, and marry whoever they want to. I’m proud of the people of my nation. Even now, under the worst kinds of stress, I have witnessed the best pasts of humanity right here in my community.
I’m also proud of history as a nation. Our record of standing up against tyranny, both domestic and foreign. And I do feel that when Europe fell into darkness and we stood alone, it truly was our finest hour. I’m proud of our rich cultural history, we gave the world William Shakespeare, Jane Austin, and Douglas Adams. We were the cradle of the Industrial Revolution, and when one of our scientists invented the internet, he gave it to the world for free.
But this doesn’t mean our history is perfect. To get to where we are today the United Kingdom did some terrible things. Our involvement in the slave trade and the impact of our empire on the native populations. The many wars and our incessant greed. None of them we should be proud of and all of them we should take responsibility for.
However, none of them detract from who we are as a nation today. Much like a person, we have all done things in our past we are not proud of. But, so long as we learn from these past mistakes, they do not make us bad people. We use that experience to shape us into who we are today. This is the same for our nation.
This is how I believe the progressive left can reconcile patriotism and the darker parts of our past. Unlike the right, we can acknowledge we have done terrible things that we shouldn’t be proud of, and yet those experiences have created a great nation. And as progressives striving for perfection not yet reached, we can be proud of what our nation could be.
Stuart is a columnist for Liberal Base and Tweets @stueybourne.