Voting, politics, consequences. / 25 May 2014
I grew up with the flag flying.
The halyard whipping against the flagpole in our garden was a constant reminder of celebration. Birthdays and special occasions were always accompanied by the full size rectangle of cloth, sometimes cracking loudly in high winds; I remember once the flagpole actually broke. Other times the heavy oblong hung languidly, still in sultry weather.
On completely other occasions we used the long narrow vimpel, with it's elegant pointed end the finger of fairy tales, of fiery dragons, fierce goblins and beckoning adventures.
And that sound of the rope flacking against the pole? It was comforting to me on dark strange nights when the world was beyond my comprehension and nothing else seemed right.
Our flags came in varying sizes. There were floor standing indoor/outdoor versions, tabletop flags that could be raised or lowered on miniature flagpoles and garden flags to dot along the driveway, alerting guests, rather like people use balloons these days.
And every year, like bunting, strings of little red and white flags dipped from the fairy on top of our Christmas tree and out to the farthest reaches of its branches.
I began my growing up knowing diversity was good. I lived with the concept of nationality as something that just was and the world was where I lived. I viewed Europe as my playground and never associated the fluttering, flapping red and white with anything other than celebration. The flag celebrated joy, fun and happiness, but also embraced haunting occasions when it flew at half mast: Long Friday, the rare deep sadness of death and remembered loss.
I was probably seven or eight before I was allowed to hoist the thing myself. It was always folded and I carried it out onto the lawn with a real sense of anticipation. I laid it on the grass to unwind the halyard from the cleat at the bottom of the flagpole, I remember a toggle on the top edge to attach the flag and once both ends were secured began pulling on the rope.
Usually all went smoothly; with a tug on the lower rope the flag unfurled as it rose into the sky. On rare occasions a snaggle would result in rather exposed failure as the lumpy mess had to be lowered and sorted out.
I didn't stand on ceremony with the lowering. The flag went down on the lawn and I did my best to get it refolded and arranged so that it would hoist without further embarrassment.
Our relaxed attitude to this symbolic piece of cloth did nothing to prepare me for the fanatics I was later to encounter and the resulting deep sense of insecurity that frightened its way through my teens and still never quite disappears from my perspective.
The reasonably easily dismissed hints of xenophobia that are part of most 'bi' children's lives, took powerful shape in my teens. The goblins and dragons of childhood became the wars of race, religion and nationality that lurk beneath the human veneer of civilisation and erupt with terrifyingly predictable uncertainty.
Inside Britain, there have been times when looking and sounding British offered enough space to hide in; having an acceptable difference (my particular foreign genes could be seen as less of a threat) rated me as ok too. And surely now I've lived here so long it makes no difference...
But in my wheelchair I have nowhere to hide...
Peace and pink Floyd:
stairway, gateway, to something
that passes for heaven or
some other kind of non-war process.
In my own bubble of incredulous peace
within the deep roar of protest
and this sense of shock
as the very latest technology
in the shape of modern war planes
dropped the symbolic bombs
of the world's religions:
the sacred symbols
of closed minds; to eliminate
dissension, to build and break
walls, to decimate life on
this Pale Blue Dot. How can we
hold such disparate attitudes
to tolerance, this mess of genetic
mish-mash that calls itself humanity?
Who is for peace? Who is for life?
Why do so many of us imagine that
supernatural power is any kind
of answer? Why
are we so fearful of our diversity?
So dismissive of our humanity?
Where does the urge to damage, belittle
and kill live in this chemical concoction
that gets mistaken for some kind of soul?
How come some of us see things so clearly
yet are so desperately utterly wrong?
Arrogance that eternally tarnishes peace.
The myth of civilisation.
Pink Floyd at the O2
enlightened my senses
with The Wall; the eternal
longing for kindness, hope, reason
in the traumatic midst of
perpetual warmongering chaos.
Quoting E Graham Howe:
Normality, is the paradise of escapologists, for it is a fixation concept, pure and simple.
It is better, if we can, to stand alone and to feel quite normal about our abnormality, doing nothing whatever about it, except what needs to be done in order to be oneself.’