What it means to be British is an interesting question. At its most fundamental, I suppose it means you were born here, have British parents, or have lived here long enough to call our green and pleasant land, home.
What it means to be proud to be British is a different question all together. When I say I am proud of my national heritage, I mean that I am proud to live in a country that is working towards equality and where I grew up believing I could be anything I wanted to be.
I’m proud that I live in a country that is full of people of different colours, beliefs and abilities. Where people live in homes built of brick and all children go to school. Where we have a national health service and a welfare state to protect the most vulnerable and support people in their time of need.
National identity has become a hot topic in the last week, since Drummer Lee Rigby was killed in Woolwich. His tragic murder has been described as a terror attack. In his name, the English Defence League has marched, attempting to spread its own brand of hatred. In his name, people across the country have been declaring their national pride. Their pride to be British.
But Lee Rigby was not killed by foreigners coming here to bent on terror. He was killed by local men, probably by men with fairly severe mental health issues. Certainly by men whose sense of right and wrong had been dramatically altered.
The EDL has declared war on Islam, but the Muslim community has been just as quick to condemn the attacks as anyone else. The number of people who think the murder of Lee Rigby was a good thing is miniscule. A handful of fundamentalists.
Yet the political capital right wing groups are attempting to gain from this awful crime is dramatically out of proportion. And the media coverage and political rhetoric isn’t helping.
Treat the men who murdered Drummer Lee Rigby as murderers by all means, but describing them as terrorists and part of a much bigger problem gives the murderers a status they don’t deserve and gives their supporters heroes to worship and, more worryingly, attempt to emulate.
My sympathies are with Lee Rigby’s family and colleagues, as they are whenever a family or a community loses a loved one.
This article first appeared in the District Post on 31 May 2013.