Unlikely words from a lefty

Poor Prince Harry. If he hadn’t gone to Afghanistan he’d have been accused of abusing privilege. Because he did, he was criticized for endangering lives by making himself a target. It’s hard to be too sympathetic, though. Media attention is tough, but let’s face it: there are worse countries to be a young royal than Britain. It is, after all, Great.

That’s right. You heard me. Great. I think this country is brilliant. In fact, I think it is better than other countries and we are lucky, as Christians, to be here. That is not because I’m so darn proud of Prince Harry. It’s because the way things are done here are better. Better than a lot of places.

A Guardian story a while back about the evils of union-busters made an interesting point: these blighters have a tougher time keeping workers unorganised and powerless in Britain than they do in the States.

Stringent labour laws? Maybe. But I think that’s just the way British people do things. Charity shops, Make Poverty History, middle-class white evangelicals who campaign for the poor, the fact that both Respect and the BNP may legally operate – you don’t find these things everywhere. Britain is, for all its faults, still open to doing the right thing, and through the Commonwealth, the Special Relationship and, well, our money, the world still listens to us.

Which is why two bits of news disturbed me last week. One had to do with the government agreeing to allow GM testing by bio-tech companies in secret locations because the pubic opposition was too strong, and the other was the tone of news reports about suspected Islamist terrorists playing paintball in the New Forest.

By allowing secret testing to avoid public outcry, the voice of public opinion is actively silenced in favour of the voice of big money. That speaks to me of an erosion of one of the greatest things about this country: that one has a sense that the government is looking out for you, that if terrible things are done here they will not be allowed to continue, and that the will of the people matters.

When a man is tried in the court of public opinion because he is a Muslim and shouts ‘Allah Achbar’ while paintballing, that speaks to me of an erosion of freedom of conscience. I love living in a country where I can believe whatever I like. And I love that the content of my beliefs does not determine whether I can hold or express them. And I hope a Muslim guy can for a moment fantasise that his life is more interesting than it really is by picturing himself as a freedom-fighter rather than, say, Conan the Librarian while playing with friends. This man’s faith and his political views on our many wars should not change that.

The Americans have an interesting idea as part of their constitution. The right to bear arms is entrenched there not to protect them from burglars or Al Quaeda, but so that citizens can rise up against an unjust government if they need to.

No guns is another reason to love this country, but in always being prepared to push their leaders back in line (at least in theory), I think the Americans have something. Because this country will not stay as genuinely great as it is if we do not protect what makes it so. And that’s not our wealth or even the beautiful scenery, culture or language, at least not for the Christian. It’s a society in which people need not fear oppression – not from the wealthy, not from the politically powerful and not even from majority opinion. That’s a nation worth fighting for.

Hmmmm… he’s Ginger, he’s clearly familair with the queen or he wouldn’t talk like that, he’s a bit of an oaf… familiar?


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