Note: the following is a modest proposal for the British people, from a concerned admirer.
The fourth of June may not have the same ring to it as the celebration that takes place exactly a month from now, and given the values and struggle that Independence Day signifies in the American consciousness, this is only right and proper. But if the British have cause to mark the throwing off a yolk of conquest, if the British have a reason to commemorate a hard-fought, and ongoing struggle against an oppressive governance that seeks to take all, demands blind loyalty and offers little in the way of compensation, today is the day to set off fireworks from Inverness to Penzance. It’s time to designate June 4 as British Independence Day.
And that’s because it’s exactly 100 years today that Emily Davison walked out onto the track at the 1913 Derby, in front of the King’s horse, and was immediately trampled to the ground. She died of her injuries four days later, becoming a martyr to the cause of women’s suffrage. It’s still not entirely clear whether she meant to disrupt the race, or throw herself under the horse, but this one shocking event continues to reverberate down the years as a symbolic gesture of strength, and the desperate measures people will go to when their voices are not heard.
Here’s some newsreel of the event. It’s quite upsetting:
So, you may well ask, if it’s this big a deal, why not just have a public celebration of women? Why call it an Independence Day at all if it’s just an early step in an unbalanced situation developing some sorely-needed equilibrium? Well, firstly because women’s achievements aren’t just for women, but also because when you call a public holiday Independence Day you set a bar of expectation. You’re not only celebrating a moment in time, you’re challenging yourselves, as a nation, to live up to your best intentions. The fact is, there are many reasons to celebrate the last 100 years of female emancipation, but there are just as many reasons to demand more independence and more respect, across all gender lines. And across lines of race, sexuality and ability too.
When Emily Davison stepped in front of that horse, she was hoping to make a splash, to help publicise a cause, in order to give women a strong and independent voice. 100 years later, those goals should apply across all of British society, not just in the ballot box, and not just when it is politically expedient to do so.
So why not? We already have a day to remember a failed coup (November 5th), and a day to remember a patron saint that the English share with a LOT of other countries. Shouldn’t the British (I sense referring to the United Kingdom now might undermine my point) pause a moment to remember how quickly societies can change for the better. and to suggest that this is a process that constantly needs to be addressed?
Also, it would make a chain of significant fourths, from Star Wars day to Independence Day, and that kind of symmetry is always nice.
June the 4th be with you, as we will soon all be saying.
Fraser McAlpine is British. This explains a lot.