I’m proud to be British.
I’m proud to be English.
I’m especially proud to be a Londoner.
I’m proud of the fact that in Britain we produce some of the best storytellers and poets in the world and have done for centuries. From Shakespeare to John Cooper Clarke. From JK Rowling to George Orwell. From Bemnjamin Zephaniah to Agatha Christie. From Salman Rushdie to Douglas Adams. From Roald Dahl to Zadie Smith. The list could go on and on…
I’m proud of the fact that although we’re a small island but we all know that we’re incredibly good at producing people who are truly at the top of their respective games. From Idris Elba to Stephen Hawking. From Heston Blumenthal to Zaha Hadid. From Danny Boyle to Tim Berners Lee. From Mo Farah to Sir Ranulph Fiennes.
I was especially proud of London in the summer of 2012. That summer the world came to us and we showed how incredible London truly is.
We were friendly, welcoming, hard working. We showed the world we had the ability to organise a truly global event which many say was one of the best (if not the best) Olympic games in modern times.
But if you remember we did moan about it. We feared it was going to be a disaster (Of course we did…that’s part of Londons DNA!). But that didn’t stop those involved, including the thousands of volunteers who in my opinion were the true stars of that particular summer, just cracking on and getting the job done!
What it did though is showcase London as one of the finest, most welcoming cities in the world!
Some of us even managed to smile on the tube (and that rarely ever happens!)
Now this might seem like a strange one but I’m also proud to live in a city where if you wanted to you could eat or drink around the world.
Jerk Chicken, Dim Sum, Chow Mein, a Roast Dinner, Pie Mash (with lashings of liquor of course!) and let’s not forget the good old curry! Top that off with a Belgian beer, or a London Gin and tonic, or a Lithuanian Vodka. Alternatively we could have a nice hot strong coffee or a good old cup of tea!
I’m also hugely proud of the fact that London is a city with so many dimensions. You can see hundreds of different side of London as you venture from the City to Camden. From Whitechapel to Hampstead Heath. From Chelsea Harbour to Upton Park. I’ve been exploring London for decades now and I’m still not done!
I’m also proud that most of us understand that, with the exception of the odd idiot, most of us want the same thing.
We want to live meaningful lives.
We want to be good parents.
We want to be good neighbours.
We want to, regardless of our race, colour or creed, be good people.
However too much of what we see on our telly screens and on social media are the views of people who seem to want to use a tragic incident to make a political point about immigration, or their disdain for a particular religion, or choosing to take what’s happened and using it, along with self selected information, to prove what they already believe.
I think we’re all guilty, to one extent or another, of making the things we consume fit our own world view.
Nobody is denying that what happened in London on Wednesday was incredibly tragic and especially for the families of the people who have lost their lives.
However when the statistics show that immigration has a huge net economic benefit, and terrorism is incredibly rare, and that whilst there are extremes in our society (of all races, colours, creeds and beliefs) the majority of people are just trying to live their life the best way they can it’s tough to work out how so many can have such an alternative perspective.
What’s strange though is that although I might disagree with you I’ll always defend your right to say it.
I think that’s what me most proud to be British (and a Londoner).
The fact that we live in a free country and a democracy.
We’re free to choose our political representatives.
We’re free to, as long as we follow the law of the land, choose how we spend our time.
We’re free to believe what we want to believe.
We’re free to ignore some idiot who despite trying his best to spread fear and hate and ignorance has already failed (a quick look at how London has just ‘kept calm and carried on’ clearly shows that) and as I’ve said already…
I’m also proud of the fact that we’re free to disagree…
To me the fact that we can sit down over a Belgian beer and a curry made by a bloke from Bangladesh in Brick Lane and be free to talk, to discuss, to debate and to disagree and still walk away as friends, and no extremist of any kind has any chance of taking that away, makes me incredibly proud.
Proud to be British.
Proud to be English.
Proud to be a Londoner.
What do you think?