I've been seriously injured and ill at intervals throughout my life. I've been whisked into hospital by ambulance, but I've never lain there listening to the siren wondering if I'll be able to pay for the treatment I need, because all the treatment I have had has been free. I know will never be in the invidious position of this Amercian woman pimping out pictures of her dying child to try and persuade people to take part in fundraisers for his medical bills and their househould expenses.
I doubt I would have had the freedoms, benefits and advantages I have had in any other country. Certainly not in profoundly racist France, where there was a flurry of phone calls and alarms from concerned parents questioning my accent and academic credentials because their children had told them the new Assistante Anglaise was not white and could not therefore be Anglaise. Certainly not in America where, in 1968, my impoverished mother would not have received the six months medical care that was required to see me safely into the world.
Liberal English law enabled me to access contraception before I reached the age of consent and an abortion when I needed one and prevented my early caution for drugs possession for hampering my career options. I have had cause, at intervals, to report crimes against me or others and seek protection from the police and always received the help and care I needed. I have actively engaged in radical (every smart person is a leftwinger in their youth) politics, political campaigning and public debates in which I have been highly critical of the government. Yet I have done so without fear of reprisal or repression, not lying awake in bed , as friends from other countries have done, waiting for the police to kick the front door in.
I have been confident enough in the sanctity of my British citizenship to travel to Belgrade at the height of the Balkans conflict to smuggle out a holdall full of money (all that was left of my friend Anice's life and property there and all that could help her and her family start a new life in Montreal) because I knew I would be rescued if I got caught. I sat calmly through three house of interrogation by the Cuban secret police who thought I was an American-funded anti-Castro activist because I had Miami and New York stamps on my passport, looked Cuban though I had an British passport, had fraternised inappropriately with various people and apparently could speak fluent Cuban Spanish when I wanted to even though I claimed I couldn't (because I could mimic the accent pretty well when doing simple stuff like ordering coffee). They became convinced I was a spy during the interrogation when my unflustered and consistent responses to their questions seemed to them clear evidence that I had been trained by the FBI in interrogation resistence techniques. In fact I was just being English and thus knew that if I waited patiently and politely eventually the rain would stop, the traffic would clear, the Ambassador and an army of civil servants would make the shouty men with moustaches aware of their mistake and I would be allowed to get on my plane back home.
I love being English and I love my country, for all it flaws and inconsistencies and follies. I love its history, its character, its landscapes and even its climate. I even love the fact that it is an inherent feature of the character of the nation that so many of the citizens will be whingeing liberals who think patriotism is a dirty word, because their very existence is proof that England will never be like France or Cuba or America.