March 1st, 2009. We are to watch Cardiff’s St David’s Day parade for the first time.
Outside Cardiff’s old City hall, I am asked to carry a large Welsh Flag. Happy to be part of the spectacle, I oblige. After some pleasant remarks from the Lord Mayor and others, we are on our way to the Bay.
All is well on the march to the Bay, although there are few spectators once we leave St Mary Street. It’s a bright day, and the flags of Saint David and the Red Dragon look fine against the blue sky.
The flag bearers are asked to line up on top of the Senedd’s steps. I am expecting a photo, but it transpires that we are expected to be some sort of honour guard behind a succession of political speakers.
At which point, I think of the Nuremberg rallies, those huge gatherings of Nazi leaders and supporters in 1930s Germany.
True, the scale is different. You cannot compare Dafydd Elis-Thomas telling hundreds that the Assembly must have more law making powers with Adolf Hitler in front of a crowd of half a million, spitting out his insane dreams of a racially pure Reich that will last a thousand years. Or compare civilian speakers calling for Welsh Independence with the hatred and militarism of the Nazis.
And yet, and yet…
I feel uneasy, and not just because I’d rather be in the pub than marooned here till the speeches end.
The parade should be a celebration of all our Welsh traditions, identity and culture on our Saint’s Day. It should not, in my view, be hijacked by political Nationalists using the enthusiasm of the crowd to push for their own agendas. We don’t all want ‘independence’. And many here in Cardiff are far from whole heartedly supportive of the Assembly.
I shan’t be marching this year.
The experience has led me to reflect a great deal since on what it means to me to be Welsh. Part of the Anglo-Welsh majority, who seem to be regarded by some as less Welsh and lesser citizens than the minority of Welsh speakers. I shall return to this theme in future posts.
But tonight, I shall be with my daughter in the Millennium Stadium fervently hoping, against the bookmakers’ published odds, for a Welsh victory against the French.
Have a good St David’s Day.