R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

There we were, Bermudians, entertaining guests from the Caribbean.  We’d invited some important people from the Caribbean to come and see and our National exhibition. They very nicely, very graciously, thanked us for the invitation and for our hospitality.

            Then the National Exhibition’s closing ceremony. The Bermuda Regiment band marched on; did a short musical display; and played – as is the military custom – a short evening hymn. Then the Band started the well-known, often heard, strains of “Sunset”.

            “Sunset” is played at the same point in every Retreat ceremony.  This happens in every Band display that ends with the lowering of Bermuda’s national flag.  If other national flags are flying, these flags are also lowered at the same time.

            If the Band performs at the American Consul’s celebration party for the American 4th July holiday; then the Band will still play an evening hymn and then play “Sunset”. Or, in deference to the Americans, the Band might choose to play ‘Taps’ – the American equivalent. At a Canadian, or Jamaican, or Barbadian, national celebration – in Bermuda – the Band would again play the evening hymn and then “Sunset”.

            Whatever happens, and for whatever country, “Sunset” would be the tune played as the national flag is, or flags, are, lowered. It’s an unvarying sequence.

            Watch Americans as ‘Taps’ is played as their ‘Old Glory’ is lowered. You will see that, almost to a man, woman, and child; they will stand and face their flag. Many will put their hand over their heart.

            Watch Canadians as their ‘Maple Leaf’ is lowered. They too, will stand and face their flag. Watch Jamaicans as their ‘Green, Black, and Gold’ is lowered. Watch ‘Trini’s’. Watch ‘Bajans’.  You’ll see the same sort of respect being paid.

            Watch Bermudians. You won’t see Bermudians stand and face the flag as their national flag is lowered. Bermudians certainly did not stand during the playing of “Sunset” at the National Exhibition’s closing ceremony on Saturday afternoon.

            Of course, apologists will leap up and say that it’s because Bermudians don’t have any national identity. They’ll likely expand on that by saying that until Bermuda becomes an independent nation with it’s own new and different flag, people will not identify with the existing national flag that has been carried – as Bermuda’s unique national flag – at every Olympics Games that Bermuda has ever entered; at every Commonwealth Games that Bermuda has ever entered; at every CARIFTA games that Bermuda has ever entered; that is flown at every RIMS conference that Bermuda takes part in; that flies at DAVOS when Bermuda is there; that gets taken as the national flag whenever or wherever any Bermudian wants to express his or her Bermudian-ness in someone else’s country.

            So – I confess that I don’t understand the argument – any argument – that condones or excuses any Bermudian who sits or lolls or walks away; or, in any way, ignores the short occasion and the few seconds that it takes to formally lower Bermuda’s national flag at a public celebration.

            You may think that I’ve got a bee in my bonnet about something that’s pretty unimportant. Think again!

            On Saturday, at the National Exhibition, proudly flying from the flagpoles, I saw the flags of Kenya, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados,…and many, many, other countries. When the Band played “Sunset”, all these flags were lowered.

            If Bermudians find it unacceptable to stand for their own – existing – national flag, do they intend to be so rude and so ignorant that they will not be courteous enough to stand for the flags of other countries?  Especially when we’ve gone to the trouble – and expense – of inviting people from those countries to come visit us – and we are their hosts?  Did we really intend to insult them?

            Not standing for your own national flag displays national ignorance. A few people seek to disguise or explain this behaviour by employing some fuzzy political rhetoric about colonialism and independence. Not standing for someone else’s national flag, though, displays a crass national ignorance. An ignorance that cannot be hidden by any kind of rhetoric whatsoever. This is just plain ‘dumbness’ – and rudeness to others.

            Can – will – ‘national pride’ and good national manners suddenly materialize at one minute past midnight on some future Bermudian ‘Independence day’?

            No. It’s ‘iggrance’ about Bermuda. It’s rudeness to other nationals. It was Bermudian ‘iggrance’ and rudeness that I saw on display during the playing of “Sunset” at the National Exhibition on Saturday afternoon, 23rd April 2006.

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