Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Citizenship ceremonies

What of the things that strikes almost everyone from the UK about the US is how seriously Americans take being part of the USA. Citizenship really really means something in a very tangible way in the US, that for the most part does not exist over here any more. And I say anymore because I think it did, once a upon a time not so distant.

Anyway, some time ago the government said they were going to start organising citizenship ceremonies for new Britons, and the first one is occuring soon BBC Article.

I am all in favour of this. Changing one's nationality ought to be more than just signing a dotted line. One's nationality is a vital part in anyone's identity, both in self-awareness and in how others perceive us. Tellingly one of the comments was: "The ceremony strikes me as a little American."

Another was: "You can't just become British by standing under a flag. That's why American people are patchwork communities rather than just one big nation."

I entirely agree, you can't just become anything by standing under a flag and swearing an oath. That's why the people have lived her for some time first, and the same of course happens in the US (one marvels that some people think changing nationality is so simple).

However, most of the comments in the article are generally positive. Indeed, the two most negative comments come from home-grown Britons who probably simply cannot imagine the importance of changing one's nationality.

This is the pledge:

I will give my loyalty to the United Kingdom and respect its rights and freedoms. I will uphold its democratic values. I will observe its laws faithfully and fulfil my duties and obligations as a British citizen.

I pretty much think that says all that needs to be said, assuming that the above also acts as a pledge of allegiance the Her Majesty the Queen. Maybe one day in the distant future they'll get this recited annually in schools or something. I can live in hope.

Oddball thought - given that the EU is set to get more invasive, and assuming that the British public continue their fairly unremitting hostility, would this eventually cause the growth of more public patriotism again? Probably not of course, but I think assuming current anti-EU feeling persists, that the question of British-ness and English-ness are going to become more popularly defined. It'll be interesting to observe, that's for sure.

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