Scotland the Brave? Only about 45% of them. Proud? Not so much. Unless you count the 55% of them full of British pride and the subset of them who were enjoying the violence as they attacked anyone wearing blue or carrying a Scottish flag. Or maybe we’re speaking of the people who stormed a park in Glasgow while smugly displaying nazi salutes, singing God Save the Queen and waving a Union Jack. It was like the 12th of July all over again…except that it was September and seemed like it would go on forever. This fascist “victory” behavior, along with the fear-mongering and condescension of the Better Together bullshit campaign leaves a sour taste and a confused “what the hell just happened in Scotland?” question rolling around in my head.
How can someone in one breath talk about the dangers of Nationalism and then sit idly by while adult British thugs chase little girls who happen to have a Scottish flag? How do you reconcile campaigning against Nationalism specifically and then celebrating your win by burning Scottish flags, beating people up, and scaring the crap out of “Yes” voters wherever you found them? How can a campaign asking people to protect Margaret Thatcher’s legacy NOT be a joke? It is a fucked up world ladies and gents, and the mind boggles at the results of the referendum…so much so that it has been terribly hard to even write about it.
I have many friends who identify as Scottish. We were all glued to our various computers, twitter feeds and live streams last week, watching in dismay as the votes came in. I had a friend randomly come by at midnight once it was done for a whisky and a cry, even though he has never lived in the land of his ancestors. What has dominated the conversations over the last week from people like him who live here on the other side of the world is “I wonder why am I so involved and emotional about Scotland”. I have other friends who questioned all the sad updates, wondering what the big deal was while the rest of us drowned our sorrow in the bottom of a bottle of Scotch.
It’s interesting to me that there were only two sets of people – those who were totally emotionally invested or those who simply did not care at all. I don’t know anyone who was just kind of interested – it was an all or nothing thing here on the other side of the puddle – just as the vote itself. Perhaps that was its downfall. If you’re only offered two choices, then it is easy for the fear-mongering to take control of the situation, bringing doubt into the hearts and minds of the people. If it is only black or white, those who are a shade of grey feel uncomfortable with either choice. And if you are up against the British Government, you better be able to counter their attacks because fighting dirty, being underhanded, and throwing their whole might at the “problem” is simply what they do. They’ve done it for hundreds of years and will continue to do so. It is how they roll.
As I watched the numbers come in live on the night of the election, I found it hard not to talk back to the computer. I remember one interview quite clearly – it was a woman saying she had voted no, but only because of the promises that Cameron and his ilk were making right before the voting began. It was so frustrating for me. Lady, you want them to change but your vote just told them that they don’t have to. I didn’t understand it that night and I still don’t.
The thing is, people in power will forever promise the world but you’re lucky if you even get a scrap of food when the posturing is done and the goals have been met. Even someone who pays just a little attention knows that. You have to force change when you can – whether it is big or small, global or individual – because if you do not, one will be forced upon you. In this case, that change is that there is no second chance at independence in Scotland – not for at least a generation and if the Brits have their way – not ever.
What may be even more disappointing though, is how many people have flocked to the SNP and the “Yes” side now that the election is over and there’s nothing they can really do about it. Many of them voted no a week ago – and like a political case of buyer’s remorse, are now wishing they could take it back. Why? Because the Brits have not changed and they were never going to. Their success in this campaign has them smug and purring, while they work to make sure that none of their other occupied lands ever get the same opportunity. The precedent has been set and the promises that they never planned to keep helped win them an election that could only happen once. Flock to the Yes groups and the Nationalist groups all you want…but I fear it is simply too little, too late.
Explaining this to people who have no ties to any other countries, no attention span and no love for history is hard though. I finally got someone to grasp that if the Scots had voted yes, it would have been a bit like our own Boston Tea Party and Revolution…but with a ballot instead of a bullet. At that point, they seemed to understand that something happening across the world, might be related to them somehow – or at least be similar to something in their own “patriotic” (read: Nationalist) past.
Many say Nationalist as if it is a dirty word. Here, we use ‘Patriotic’ for good old America and ‘Nationalist’ when describing others – or bad political movements. I know that there are many cases throughout history that support that kind of phrasing but that doesn’t mean it always has to be so. I know plenty of truly horrible patriots and some wonderful Nationalists too. People long for an identity, a home, and a tribe – we have done that for thousands of years. That longing doesn’t just stop and it will likely continue until the end of time. Nationalism only becomes a problem when one group claims superiority over another. It becomes worse when aggression enters the picture while tolerance and diversity flee as it did in the Glasgow park. As it does constantly in Northern Ireland too. That is the tipping point of when Nationalism becomes Fascism, and it becomes evil and dangerous…. but it doesn’t always have to end up there.
It could have ended up in an independent country who was tasting freedom for the first time in hundreds of years while sticking it to their oppressors without a single shot fired. It could have been a momentous triumph with far-reaching implications for other regions and countries, including the North that I love so well. And in my outsider, across the puddle opinion, the only thing wrong with that is that it didn’t happen.