Watching the Rangers game this week – and perhaps most especially the fans* – made me wonder about identity, and how mixed up and muddy it can get. Quite reasonably, an English buddy of mine asked why the resolutely Scottish Rangers supporters waved the Union Jack. Now, you’d imagine that a reasonable simple question deserves a reasonable simple answer, but it’s WAY more complicated than that, and I’m not even sure I can explain it correctly.
Firstly, there’s the red, white and blue which the kits & flags share; then there’s the supposed loyalty to “the union”, which with Scottish Parliament and a SNP first minister is as fragile now as it has ever been. On top of that, what is the Britishness that such loyalty is directed towards? Is it the amazing rainbow-hued multi-ethnic society that I’m glad to experience every day in London, or something else that existed in the past but has long been consigned to history?
The waters are further muddied, because those supporters are likely to whistle raucously with the rest of the Tartan Army in protest at the playing of the British National Anthem, “God Save The Queen” for the England team on the now rare occasions when Scotland and England meet on the football field.
Also, in Scotland there’s in a growing interest in and affinity for all things celtic, not to be confused with Rangers’ bitter rivals Celtic!
No wonder it’s confusing.
For me – and I say this as someone who’s loyalty as an armchair supporter has been with Rangers since I was old enough to utter the word – I do struggle a little with seeing the Union Jack waved. Having moved to England from Scotland in mid 70s, and being of a generation when the flag was hi-jacked by the far right when my sympathies were more in line with Rock Against Racism and the upbeat joy of 2-Tone it still creates a kind of uncomfortable feeling when I see it flown.
• I’m hugely proud to be a Scot (with an English accent)
• I baulk at describing myself as “British”
• I’m probably a Londoner as much as anything else
• I feel like a Celt, not an Anglo
• I’m still a Rangers supporter, but I renounce bigotry
• I’ve never met an Irishman I haven’t gotten on with famously
• My family is a glorious mix of the celtic, anglo and Caribbean, but when Scotland are playing there’s only one team for us
• I agree with those eminent theologians at Hard Rock, and would wish to Love All, Serve All
• Ultimately, my identity is bound up in my saviour Jesus
There’s a quote attributed to Desmond Tutu that I’m finding increasing resonance with:
Jesus said, 'If I be lifted up I will draw all, all, all, all, all. Black, white, yellow, rich, poor, clever, not so clever, beautiful, not so beautiful. It's one of the most radical things. All, all, all, all, all, all, all, all. All belong. Gay, lesbian, so-called straight. All, all are meant to be held in this incredible embrace that will not let us go. All.
*If you’re reading this outside of the UK you may not realize that somewhere around 100,000 football (soccer) fans effectively invaded the city of Manchester to support their team in a major European soccer final.