New Internationalist

Take a day off for St George!

Celebrating St George's Day [Related Image]
Garry Knight under a Creative Commons Licence

First things first: my real name is not Aliena Amicus. That name is a piece of cod Latin, reluctantly employed by me at the insistence of my friends and family, to protect me from those who might show – or express through violence – their disapproval of a pro-immigrant campaign that I have launched. The word ‘immigration’ is now so flammable in conversation that its use in any setting can trigger volatile and polarized reactions from all directions. So I fear that calling my campaign ‘Celebrate St George the Immigrant’ is bound to raise hackles, or worse.

Yet the idea driving it is both simple and benign. Immigrants are demonized by the tabloid press and the political Right as being a massive drain on the country. Yet the truth, as has been demonstrated many times over, is that immigrants have brought, and continue to bring, great economic benefits to Britain, as well as making huge positive contributions to our social fabric.

So I’m proposing a simple day of (in)action to challenge the negative notions. Let anyone who wasn’t born in Britain, or whose parents or grandparents were not born here, take the day off work on 23 April. Use flexi-time, take a day’s annual leave, decline a shift, throw a sickie, have a duvet day – by whatever means open to you, contrive not to show up at work. Let us see as a nation just how well we would function if every single person of non-indigenous origin made no contribution – for even a single day. Then we can truly discover if immigrants really are the drain that is claimed.

I wish I could lay claim to the idea of a day off for immigrants. The truth is that my other half came up with it, but was content with just having the idea. I was so struck its brilliance and simplicity that I decided I just had to launch it as a campaign on Facebook. My contribution was coming up with the date.

And why have I chosen 23 April? Simple – it’s St George’s Day. With wonderful irony it turns out that this appropriated symbol of Little England xenophobia is the perfect poster-child for successful immigration. His father was a Greek who emigrated to the city of Lod in Palestine, where he served in the Roman army and married a local girl. Then, when he was a young man, George himself emigrated to Turkey, joined the army there, and did very well, rising to the high rank of Tribunus. Two generations of very successful immigration.

You can show your support of the campaign by going to the Facebook event page and clicking ‘Going’. Currently we’re still quite small. I would love to see us swell to thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands. You don’t even have to be eligible to take (in)action: show your support anyway by clicking ‘going’. You just have to be willing to challenge the noxious proposition that people from other places are part of some terrible conspiracy to destroy you and your way of life. So, go ahead, take a day off for St George the Immigrant.

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