Union Jack

04/06/12 | Posted by Ian Black

I have changed my mind about the Union Jack. It's a gut feeling. I used to see it and found it had been hijacked in my brain by extreme right wing racism. I couldn't help it. Something unconscious associated it with hatred and violence. That is a shame to say the least because it's one of my national flags. But my view has been changed and changed by a very simple bit of history.

 Union Jack

I recently discovered that the Union Jack is named after James 1 (Jack being an informal version of James).  The Union of Scotland and England was his passion because he knew that England and Scotland had spent centuries fighting.  So when he became king of both countries in 1603, bringing them together in peace was a passion.  Countries which had very different characteristics, political systems, legal systems and church structures became united.  For how much longer remains to be seen, given the move among some Scots for independence and to be honest that isn’t new.  But becoming aware of a bit of simple history has helped the penny drop and given me a new way of seeing the flag.  Instead of extremism and hatred I now see a symbol of unity in diversity, of difference being held together in a common belonging.  That’s the intention behind it or a new and more positive light that can be shone on it.

I know there are others who will associate it with painful history, so may be they need the rebranding, to see it in a new light too so we can be helped to move forward together.

At the moment Union Flags are everywhere.  It is easily misappropriated for unsavoury ends, but at its heart it aims to be an image for bringing our disparate identities and cultures, that make up modern Britain, together.  The challenge for the future is to foster social cohesion and all that builds our common life together.  Seen through these eyes the flag can issue that challenge.  Bringing people together, from different races and languages and nations was one of the early passions of the Christian church as it sought to reflect our common, shared status as heirs of Christ.  As flags are waved may it be an inspiration to work for peace through unity in all our differences and distinctive characteristics.

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Of course, the union of 1603 was between Scottish and English crowns - the churches did not unite (later attempts to do so led to near revolution; the parliaments did not unite until 1707 (and that is the Union the SNP are trying to dissolve, not the union of crowns), and Ireland didn’t join the union until 1801 - so the Union flag did not have the red X of St Patrick until then.  And the flag you showed is the Union Flag.  The Union Jack is that which is flown from a naval ship.  So much for pedantry!

#1. By Mike on June 18, 2012




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