Falling between Flags aka Understanding Standards
Flags are odd things. So symbolic – solely so.
You look at a flag and you might know what it represents geographically. You might know what it represents politically. It might, for some cultural, or inexplicable reason, have other connotations – that you might sense in your mind and your heart. You might love a flag, hate a flag, want to burn a flag, or want to fly it high from the castle of your heart.
I’ve never had an easy relationship with the Union Jack. It doesn’t feel naturally mine. I had a cool paper toy when I was young that had all the Home Nations’ flags separate and you could fold them together to make the Union Jack. That was kind of cool. But when would I fly the flag?
The Union Jack for me only fits for anything royal – births, weddings, jubilees – the Olymipcs or full military honours. It always felt odd having the Union Jack being waved for Andy Murray. I wondered whether the British relief at having a Wimbledon Champion would turn to despair in the case of independence – would the Wimbledon 77 year curse that gloriously broke suddenly turn into a 79 year curse?
The saltire, I love. Scotland the Brave. The St Andrew’s Cross. The blue of the sky – look up, into the blue.
In the last few weeks before the referendum I was in ASDA and saw Saltire deelyboppers for £3. Bargain. I bought a pair, and envisaged wearing them watching referendum debates. I imagined hanging my saltire in the window as a sign of my patriotism to my own country of Scotland.
But, over a few days, the connotations shifted, and I couldn’t fly my flag. When I looked at the saltire, it began to symbolize things I didn’t want to mean when I would wave my flag.
I felt as if I was sharing a bed with someone who had rolled over, and, in their sleep, had wrapped themselves up in the blanket – and they were all cosy, and I was lying there all cold. I tug and tug at the blanket – but it’s theirs now. I haven’t got a blanket.
I didn’t have a flag.
It was a weird kind of detachment to see the sea of Saltires in Buchanan Street and George Square – it should have been a glorious sight – I should have loved it – but the scenes made me feel alarmed and lost and distant. The Saltire hadn’t changed, but when I looked at it, it seemed to mean things I couldn’t feel.
So my saltire stayed folded, and my deelyboppers remained unworn. I’m not likely to start festooning the place with the Union Jacks.
I hope that I can have my flag back now – that I can fly the flag, even metaphorically, without people either making assumptions about what I voted, or judging me for flying a Saltire hypocritically.
When I was wee, we sang a song:
“There is a flag flying high from the castle of my heart,
from the castle of my heart,
from the castle of my heart,
There is a flag flying high from the castle of my heart,
For the King is in residence there”
The idea would be that if a king was home, his flag would be raised above the property he was staying in. By flying the Union Jack it is like saying that the UK is home and the UK government is in charge. That doesn’t reflect how life is for me. I’d rather fly the Saltire. We are one Scotland. We are also within Britain. So it’s complicated.
The song is about Jesus, though. The idea was, that if Jesus was home, in the castle of one’s heart, there should be a flag – it should be clear to passers by that Jesus is home. And is ruling.
How does this work with secular, political flags? The parliaments of Holyrood and Westminster might be in charge of various bits of my life, and have their flags waving above those elements – but, fundamentally, Jesus is home and Jesus is King. I had a referendum with myself on that issue and, hey, it was a 100% Yes vote.
Jesus hasn’t got a flag. He had a cross – a cross, that is all over both the Union Jack and the Saltire.
I’ll try to look at both the political flags that will continue to fly over the places where I live, and remember that “there is a flag flying high from the castle of my heart, for the King is in residence there.”
Hoping for a peaceful transition to whatever the next stage turns out to be.