The three lions: uniting a divided nation?

By Blog Writer Charlotte Davies

From Kane’s golden moment in the opening match of the tournament to England’s heartfelt defeat to Croatia in the semi-final, the Three Lions continued to inspire and engage the fans. While recent British politics has seen tensions arising between politicians, with further scare-mongering and resignations in the discussions and debates surrounding Brexit, the World Cup should perhaps be celebrated as a beautiful moment in uniting an apparently divided nation.

England, having reached the semi-finals for the first time in 28 years, recording their joint-second best ever finish at the World Cup, emboldened and renewed the spirits of the British population. The lack of expectations surrounding Southgate’s young team is perhaps what made it all the more magical. Fans from across the country, young and old and from different ethnic backgrounds, were all united in their support of the team. Like never before, there was optimism, passion and hope.

While the evolution of football as it is known today has its roots in Britain, with football flourishing for over a thousand years, perhaps now, more than ever, football needs to be celebrated as being more than just a game. In the past couple of weeks, bringing communities and groups together, football has illustrated that, despite all our differences, there is so much more that unites us than should ever separate us. There are few other things that capture such an idea so effortlessly. Russia 2018 has helped to cultivate this sense of identity. It has helped to craft a positive vision for the future; like the 2012 Olympics it became so much more than just a sport. 

Despite the nation becoming more tolerant and open on the whole, the nation was so clearly divided on the question of Brexit, with Vote Leave winning by a small margin of 51.9% to 48.1%.  Since 2011, Hope Not Hate suggest that attitudes and beliefs towards race, faith and belonging have become increasingly polarised, with many believing that multiculturalism has failed. Equally, attitudes towards the Grenfell disaster have revealed sharp contrasts in attitudes and beliefs. While Londoners, Labour supporters and members of BAME communities saw Grenfell as key to illustrating the extremely unequal nature of society, Conservative voters, those outside of London and those from the far right merely viewed this disaster as an isolated and unfortunate accident.

While the term “nation” has often, in present times, assumed a synonymous attachment with racial nationalism, perhaps it is important to recognise the inherent nature of identity in today’s world. While nations can be thought of as “imagined communities”, whereby we share something with people we don’t know, the very reality of identity is quite simple. With people inherently seeking identity and something with which they can associate, nations and identity should be considered as one of the most universally legitimate political values. National identity matters for countering apathy and increasing participation; a sense of belonging together is so vital to shared institutions and social welfare. Electoral democracy essentially flourishes from nations, from a sense of belonging and from this sense of identity.

The patriotism of many is and should be pride in being the birthplace of Shakespeare and Darwin, a country that is extremely tolerant of religion and culture, a country that welcomed the great scholar Erasmus and a country that has become the home for many immigrants and refugees fleeing unsafe lands. Now, it is necessary to maintain this pride, faith and passion. After all, immigration and tolerance enriches our society.

Perhaps then, now, more than ever, it is important to hold onto this united feeling of oneness, of community spirit and comradeship. We need to focus on the things that unite us as opposed to looking for those that divide us. We are, after all, a multicultural, thriving nation that should recognise differences as pillars to unite us as oppose to divide us.

Sources and Further Reading

Image IIP Photo Archive @flickr 

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