Patriotism isn’t uncivilised – it’s what makes civilisation possible

Is it racist to be patriotic? Is patriotism, by definition, small-minded and exclusive? When you strip away the onion layers of sentiment about history and hymns, Shakespeare and lawn clippings, does it have a hateful heart? I ask because, as I’ve written before, I feel patriotic, and until recently I’ve considered this to be a good thing.

I felt particularly patriotic at a service in Ravenstonedale, Cumbria, last week. I slid in late and guilty, amid snippy Sunday stares. After the sermon we trooped outside and in the suddenly sunlit graveyard the vicar whipped a trumpet from his cassock and began to play. A pair of starlings began their electric warble, the motes and midges were bright against the dark church wall. Men stood suited, four-square, and everybody tried not to tread on the grass. My heart lifted with affection for this country, it lifted and then it paused, punctured mid-rise with doubt.