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Last Updated: Monday, 14 June, 2004, 10:13 GMT 11:13 UK
Is flying the flag patriotic?
St George's flag

In the run-up to Euro 2004, it seems you cannot go down any street in at the moment without seeing cars, shops, houses and pubs festooned with St George's flags.

Many argue that these patriotic displays are just an indication of support for the England squad.

But many also feel threatened by the increase in flags and their past association with racism.

Yet in other countries, such as the United States, people are proud to fly their flag.

So Is flying the St George's flag just a patriotic gesture? Do you feel threatened by them? Do you fly the flag and if so, why? And if not, why not?

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far.

This topic was suggested by Lesley, USA:
Everywhere you go in the US, people are proud to fly their flag. What is the UK's view on flying the English flag?

As a Scot I would like to encourage all English people to fly the flag of St George. The Saltire is a very common sight in Scotland, as is the Maple Leaf in Canada and the Stars and Stripes in the States. There is no reason why you should not reclaim your flag from the football hooligans and be proud of being English once again.
Neil Stewart, Aberdeen, Scotland

I am not an Englishman but certainly do not think that we should see Saudi flags in support of English team. What is wrong with you English? What are you ashamed of?
Ahmed Javad, London

Near where I live there are lots of St. Georges flags being flown. I have to say that I do find it quite threatening - despite not being from an ethnic minority. I know it may just be a sign of support for England in 2004 but in my area I have also heard patriotic songs turn in the pub turn into more threatening racist taunts later into the evening.

Together, this makes the flag seem threatening. In addition they were put up long before Euro 2004 so I was unsure of the reason for the flag flying which is also coupled with the rise of rather racist sentiments towards immigrants in the popular press at the moment.
Catherine Mottram, London, UK

I have no problem with this - in fact I'm delighted that at last the English nation recognises their own flag and not using the Union flag for England-only events such as international sports matches etc.
Jill, Edinburgh, UK

I have no problem with flying the flag. I do think however having them on cars and vans is dangerous for other road users. On the racism issue, it is the flag of England and therefore we should be proud to fly our flag.
Bridget, Medway, UK

I object to my flag being appropriated by the huge football marketing machine and by companies that want to sell me soft drinks, junk food, clothes, CDs etc etc. English identity- as represented by the cross of St George - is rapidly becoming another 'brand,' a tool for advertising executives to tell us what we should aspire to.
Graham, London

I'd fly the flag...but for it's association with football.
Pete, Yate, England

It's a wish to win a competition that makes most people here fly the flag, not patriotism
Mike Doverskog, Telford, UK
I think we can conclude, from the comments on this board, that there is little or no real opposition to flying the English flag. The question however is whether the English flag is flown out of patriotism. In other countries, for example the Scandinavian countries, the national flag is flown on national flag days and very special occasions. Their flags are usually flown from flagpoles in their gardens, raised at dawn and lowered before the sun sets.

When the flag is flown in such celebration of nationalism it is patriotic. When the flag is flown only in support for a team or player at a sports event it is no different from waving a Man U or Chelsea flag. It's a wish to win a competition that makes most people here fly the flag, not patriotism. I'd love to see the St George's Cross flown for patriotic reasons, just as I love to my own Swedish flag flown in celebration of my country's heritage and traditions.
Mike Doverskog, Telford, UK

I wouldn't "fly the flag" simply because for some reason I associate the cross of St George (who incidentally was a Turk and never set foot in the British Isles) with medical facilities rather than England, and with dishonourable and cruel Christian crusades rather than anything inherently virtuous. On the other hand, I do perceive a red rose as English. Interestingly, the US flag which Americans are proud to fly is actually a symbol of integration and union like our own Union Flag, but do they obsess over their state flags in the same way that many English people do over the cross of St George I wonder?
Steve, UK

The more that ordinary people fly the St George Cross the less it will be associated with the extremists who sought to hijack it for their own purposes.
Alex, Birmingham

It's a fair bet that if you live in England you will be supporting England in Euro 2004 - only football fans could think that they need to prove this by 'enhancing' their Mini Coopers with foreign made flags.
Jeff, Castleford

I'm English, I do not wave the flag, I do not march to the beat of the drum - eccentric, independent, I do not need to wave a flag
Ed Manning, Coventry, UK
In Aldous Huxley's Ape and Essence there are a lot of apes, then suddenly they find two flags, gather round them and start killing each other. I'm English, and traditionally the English are not a flag waving and worshipping people. Therefore I am not convinced that to wave a flag is to be patriotically English. Several commentators on the English have commented that really we are a mongrel nation, a mixed bag, always have been and always will. I'm English, I do not wave the flag, I do not march to the beat of the drum - eccentric, independent, I do not need to wave a flag.
Ed Manning, Coventry, UK

The epitome of Englishness used to be style without overt ostentation. People seem now to be unsure of their individual and collective identities that they feel they need to use designer labels to define themselves or indeed the flag of St George. By all means let's fly the flag for St George's Day - that could be a fine celebration - but all this euphoria in the name of a football game; it's all a bit unseemly.
John Lancashire, Reading, UK

Flag flying isn't racist. It's essentially trivial and inconsequential. I don't have the time for such a trivial activity. I can think of better, more productive ways of expressing your love for your country.
Prashant, Toronto, Canada

This should be a completely pointless discussion but thanks to various groups with different agendas, our flag has to be surrounded with controversy. I fly my flag because I am proud of being English. That means everything to do with our history, heritage, customs, fabric and patriotism. All that we have achieved and everything that we have become. I am proud to fly the flag of England because I love my country. And if anyone has any problems with that then that is their own discrimination.
Paul Rookes, Basingstoke

As an antidote to all the stars and stripes around, I have the English flag on the front of my car, and take pride in explaining it to Americans who think I work for the Red Cross. Let's not worship our flags but equally let's not be ashamed to fly them (all the time, not just during football tournaments).
David, Pennsylvania, USA

Let's start being proud of our country for the great achievements off the field
Linda, UK
Flying the flag is a good thing, but it would be nice to fly it to feel patriotic and proud of England, not just when it's associated with football. That's all it is at the moment - pride in football. Come on England - let's start being proud of our country for the great achievements off the field!
Linda, UK

Have you ever noticed that when something like this is supposed to offend, it's not the people who are supposed to be offended who complain ? It's always someone who thinks other people will be offended?
Adrian Mugridge, Chester, Cheshire

In my town both the Turkish kebab shop and the Indian takeaway have flags of St George flying outside - no probs.
Janet, Morecambe, UK

It would seem that yet again the media is trying to whip up a storm out of nothing. The cross of St George is our national flag, just as the Stars and Stripes is the USA's. Why do the media continue to try and poison people's attitudes towards the flag with debates such as this? Can't we all just be proud to be English without being made to feel ashamed?
Mark , Bradford, England

I suspect this is a natural backlash, and many people fly the flag simply because they've been told they shouldn't. If the self-appointed moral police who seem to infest our society hadn't made such a fuss about it in the first place this never would have become an issue. Serves them right.
Dennis Smith, London UK

I don't think the English flag is more offensive or divisive than any other flag
Colin Wright, UK

I don't like football and I find excessive flag waving by any nation a little worrying as it's a thin line between Patriotism and Nationalism and when people start worshipping flags they've often crossed it. But I don't think the English flag is more offensive or divisive than any other flag.
Colin Wright, UK

Surely the more ordinary people fly the St. George's flag [or the Union Flag for that matter, the sooner it will cease to be a symbol of the far Right? Church of England churches often fly the St. George's flag and have done so for centuries, do the PC brigade now wish to interfere with that as well?
Peter Mason, Chelmsford, UK

Let me be the first to claim that I as an American have no patriotic feelings in flying a flag. Flags are simply symbols that represent imaginary boarders and do nothing but divide one set of human beings from another. To take pride in such a difference does nothing but further the separation between all the people of the world based not on skin colour or religion, but simply upon a piece of cloth waived to signify dominance. Let's break down this barrier, and have one less obstacle in our path to human unity.
Brent Ramsay, Helena, Montana, USA

The fact that we have to have a debate about whether it's ok to fly our own national flag shows how sad things have become in this country. It's ok to for the ethnic communities to celebrate their culture, it's ok for the Welsh, Scottish and Irish too, but not the English. Perhaps a bit of national pride and an interest in our culture and history would be a good thing; we might start to see less litter and vandalism amongst other things.
Kevin, Hampshire

Let's be clear about one thing regarding the flag- it can't be tainted by Empire (if that's a concern for some) because it wasn't used during that time! Probably a good reason it should be used over the Union Flag. I think it's somewhat ironic to talk of racism in association with flying the St George, when you deny a whole country of its identity (of which flags represent for some)
Alfred Oresaba, UK

I live in Bradford and can tell you that I have seen loads of people from Asian backgrounds flying their national flag with pride. I hope this is a sign of better relations and times ahead.
Saleem Khan, Bradford, West Yorkshire

I live in Norway and the Norwegian flag is flown with pride. Why can't the English? The Norwegians I work with can¿t understand why a country can even discuss not flying their flag.
Wendy Harrison-Fox, Oslo, Norway (Originally Mansfield, England)

Has anyone spotted the irony that these hundreds of thousands of St George's flags are produced in the Far East, because British manufacturing can't compete?
Footo, Milton Keynes, UK

The fact that the BBC even puts this topic up for discussion is a sad reflection of political correctness in the UK.
Philip, Bristol

I think it's high time that we, the citizens of England, were able to fly the flag of St George without being told we might offend minorities. I'm originally from a minority (Sri Lankan by birth, British citizen now), and I'm not offended in the slightest. It's time to claim the flag back for the honest, patriotic people of England.
Indika, Croydon, Surrey

When shall we finally stop hitting ourselves over the head because we are proud of our English heritage?
Alistair Asquith, USA/UK

The flags are being flown in the UK, they are not being flown in someone else's country. So what exactly is the problem? When shall we finally stop hitting ourselves over the head because we are proud of our English heritage? What is the problem with loving your country?
Alistair Asquith, NJ, USA / London, UK

As an expat, I am still proud of my country. England will always be number one. As you say, here in the USA everyone flies the country's flag. I don't feel threatened by it. I think everyone should be proud of their country. I think it's about time people in England started flying their flag, be proud. The flag of a country should be one of the few things that can be displayed and not offend anyone.
Andy Sumner, Northfield, USA

I think it's great to see a bit of patriotism in this country for a change. But why does it always have to be solely associated with football? Why can't people fly the flag in remembrance of the achievements and individuals of this great country which have contributed so much to the civilised world, rather than a bunch of over-paid men kicking around an inflated pig's bladder on some turf?
Mike, Leeds, UK

It seems that the Euro 2004 flag appeal is also running alongside the D-Day anniversary. Perhaps it's a good time to feel patriotic?
Jim, Leicester, UK

I am at a loss to understand how the English flag can be classed as racist. It existed and was proudly displayed long before "Britain" existed, if that makes it racist then so are the flags of Scotland and Wales and most European countries.
Nigel, Worcester Park

St George's flag belongs to all who live in England
Matth, London
Flying the flag should not be seen as threatening or racist. It's a symbol of belonging to a country, not a political opinion. Fascist and other kinds of extremists should not be allowed to steal it. St George's flag belongs to all who live in England, don't associate it with a bigoted minority!
Matth, London

Tim (below) clearly was not alive in the late Seventies and early Eighties to see skinheads tattooed with the St George flag beating up any non-whites, in particular during the summer riots of 1981.
Nigel , Redhill, UK

Maybe the English national flag should be changed to have a picture of a pint of larger and a plate of chicken tikka massala on it? Now that really is home-grown and true English!
Sardar Singh, London, UK

My flag is simply a symbol of the country I love. I was born English and will always be proud to say I am English. I am not a fascist or an anarchist, I am simply a patriot.
Colin Whelan, Liverpool

Maybe we should consider changing the English flag to a pink one with frilly edges. The BNP wouldn't dare fly it then.
David, Sutton, UK

I have never heard of anyone saying the England flag is a racist symbol. I have the Union flag, and this very debate is tarnishing an otherwise untainted symbol of England and will result in a feeding frenzy by the advocates of political correctness!
D Goodwin, Leicester

I spend a lot of time in Denmark. There, the Danish flag is everywhere to be seen. It is normal for houses to have a flagpole flying it proudly. It is on cars and vans, boats, inside and outside shops; even on tablecloths, napkins and crockery. Nobody, regardless of their race, colour, creed or religion, is the slightest bit perturbed or embarrassed by this. Why can't we English be the same?
Stuart, Doncaster, UK

It's a shame when people associate the English flag with the BNP

Mullah Hafeezud Din, Birmingham
It's a shame when people associate the English flag with the BNP. I know very decent anti-racist people who have England flags on their cars. It doesn't bother me, a British-born of Pakistani descent. Political correctness has just gone too far!
Mullah Hafeezud Din, Birmingham, UK

My St George is on the front of my house 12 months of the year!
Nick, Vancouver, Canada

Ed, UK wrote: "Unlike the British, the Americans can be proud of its heritage. Their flag was not a symbol of barbarism and colonialism as the flag of England was." Oh really? Tell that to the native Americans of the Mid-West or the slaves of the Southern States.
David, Netherlands

I find flag-flying very threatening. All through my childhood I associated flags with terrorism here in Northern Ireland. You only ever saw flags in violent estates or in the hands of skinheads. I recognise that in England there's nothing wrong with it, but I personally feel subconsciously threatened when I see a flag.
Wesley Johnston, Belfast, UK

Unlike the British, the Americans can be proud of its heritage. Their flag was not a symbol of barbarism and colonialism as the flag of England was. Americans have not, in their history, invaded by various means nearly one fifth of the globe. We should demand a new flag, inclusive of all our people and dismissive of our somewhat shameful past.
Ed, UK

Flying the flag is an expression of support for the country's football team and anyone who searches for a deeper meaning is looking for demons which exist only in the minds of a tiny minority.
John M, Lyne Meads, UK

I too have avoided flying the flag because I associated it with the far right. But my thoughts on this have changed - perhaps it is time to reclaim the flag as a symbol of England as a positive icon; if the majority of people flew one with this attitude, its value to the far right might diminish.
Stevie, London

I am outraged that there are so many people who want to stop English people flying our own flag
Debbie, Leeds
I am outraged that there are so many people who want to stop English people flying our own flag. To say it is provocative is pathetic. I am English, I am proud to be English and take great offence when I am told I can't fly my own nation's flag. What's next? We can't wear red, white or blue together in case it causes offence?
Debbie, Leeds, West Yorkshire

I have not seen one flag being displayed by a non-white person, and I have seen hundreds of flags. What does that say about what the St George's flag means to the UK's ethnic minorities? I (as an English non-white person) still believe it is associated with the far right and people of that political belief. However the more ordinary people that fly it the sooner it will be reclaimed from the Far right. So I think it's a good thing!

I don't know where JB lives but I a non-white (as is so put) born and bred in England and proud to fly the cross of St George as it is flag of my country
Ron, London

I think it needs to be made clear that it used to be the Union flag that had associations with the far right (in particular the National Front) and not the cross of St George. Anyway, I don't understand how any flag can be deemed racist. Like it or not, this is England, and if we can't fly our own flag here then where can we?
Tim, UK

The St George's flag existed long before the modern notions of political correctness. No one would deny a proud Scot his right to fly the flag of St Andrew or a Welshman to wave the flag of St David, so why pick on the English? People who complain about the English flag are no better than the false accusations they make. What better example of racism than restricting the right of cultural expression?
Olly, Cambs, England

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07 Jun 04  |  West Midlands


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