Dwelling on the EDL instead of Englishness as a whole is like meeting someone who is interesting and beautiful but only being interested in their belly button fluff.
The week’s papers have been filled by that notorious minority that have so abused the term ‘English’ – the English Defence League (EDL). The same merry band of men who purport to defend ‘Englishness’ whilst with no sense of irony, exerting – and I use this next phrase carefully – a degree of ‘fuckwittery’ that most people in England find as repulsive as they do alien.
Watching a video of one of these men taking to the streets of Newcastle to tell “the Black cunts to go home” I felt a small bit of my soul crumble. Watching it I desperately waited for someone in the crowd to pipe up with a retort such as, “What about Ashley Cole…or Oona King, or…Kelly Holmes, Lewis Hamilton, Lennox Lewis or John Barnes? Do they all have to ‘go home’?”
Alas, it never came.
However much we would like to pretend otherwise though, this merry band of fuck wits who fall under the sloppy title of the EDL to regurgitate their hatred and hyperbole are also part of ‘English culture’ – a culture that we all part of.
To deny them their place in contemporary English culture is to play into their idiotic rhetoric that ‘Englishness’ can somehow be defined by one group or persons’ understanding of morality.
Like it or not, the EDL are (a small) part of contemporary English culture.
We don’t however, despite what the front pages of the tabloids would have you believe, have to dwell on this one nasty bit of our culture.
Let me illustrate…
If I was to go on a first date, I probably wouldn’t show my date the little bit of fluff that seems to habitually collect in my belly button. That would be as disgusting as it would probably give my date the wrong impression of me.
In the same way, we don’t have to constantly project our far-right thugs into the international limelight.
On this hypothetical first date however, I might, if I was feeling lucky, flash my date a quick smile. Again, it doesn’t define me, but it is much more likely to set a good impression than picking the fluff out of my belly button.
In England, I think we have thousands of cheeky smiles that I would love the world to see more often. So, in a week where the world has focused in our metaphorical belly button fluff I thought I would show you one or two of our cheeky smiles.
The first example comes in this heart-warming story from York. After hearing news that the EDL were planning a protest outside the local mosque, people scrambled to…make tea. The Guardian reports:
“A York mosque dealt with a potentially volatile situation after reports that it was going to be the focus of a demonstration organised by a far-right street protest movement – by inviting those taking part in the protest in for tea and biscuits.”
The story gets better with the little details. The report goes onto say:
“tensions were rapidly defused over tea and plates of custard creams, followed by an impromptu game of football”
Football and custard creams – how very very English!
Carrying on the food based theme (who says that the English don’t have a wonderful cuisine!), the second story comes from my home shire – Gloucestershire – and is based around the county’s finest product – Double Gloucester Cheese.
While hundreds of EDL supporters rallied outside 10 downing street to blame Islam for the Woolwich attacks, a few thousand Brits alongside a few hundred “foreigners” turned up to Cooper’s Hill in Gloucestershire to chase after wheels of Double Gloucester cheese.
I struggle to think of a more wonderful juxtaposition of illustrations of ‘English culture’. One on the capitol’s streets with half-pissed middle-aged men shouting slogans that condemn a faith that some 3 million fellow Brits peacefully follow with all the anger and arrogance they can muster; while the other sees thousands of people running down a near vertical muddy slope chasing a piece of cheese with nothing in their cider confused mind other than to have a good time.
I know which part of these contrasting glances at English culture I want the world to see.
The question then is simple, why do we focus in on, worry about, and obsess over England’s belly button fluff when it has such a winning smile?
England doesn’t just have a nice smile, it is also has a rich history, a melting pots of faiths, languages and cuisines that collectively contribute to what makes it the country it is today. We should celebrate this.