Sunday, September 14, 2014

Scotland versus Quebec: United We Stand or Divided we Fall

As a Canadian of English birth I have been watching the Scottish independence vote with a confusing mixture of amusement and disgust. Many people don't even know that what the United Kingdom faces now is identical to what Canada faced about twenty years ago. And so as a battle hardened veteran of unity I bring my experience to this almost identical showdown of "nationhood." A lot similarities exist between the two regions trying to separate, eh? Both have a disgusting traditional dish - Quebec has poutine (French fries, cheese curds and gravy if you must know) and Scotland has haggis (pig entrails stuffed into a stocking). Both have flags with the same color scheme, blue and white. Additionally, both regions have unleashed on the world absolute embarrassments of performing "artists" with Quebec being responsible for Celine Dion and Scotland for Susan Boyle. As well, both areas have enjoyed living under the yoke of English colonialism. Yes, sad historical events mark both Quebec and Scotland's relationship with the evil empire over the centuries, but from this I'd like to think something special has developed. Much like a bullying older sibling growing up England has matured and the truth about the origins of our relationship has been acknowledged. In other words, the union has evolved just as most relationships often do. 

I remember being a wide eyed teenager and missing school when I was called upon by my country to descend on Montreal, the site of the last major rally before the vote in 1995. The whole city shut down as hundreds of thousands had showed up to voice their support in that quintessentially inclusive way Canadians have doing things by proudly saying, "my Canada includes Quebec." 

The similarities in these two fights of nationhood end here I'm afraid. Everything that could have gone wrong for the "no" side in this campaign has gone wrong and I regret to inform you that my observations of the Scottish Unity vote has been one of the most poorly mismanaged and half-hearted political campaigns of the modern age. In Canada almost twenty years our proud priminister Jean Chretien attacked the Quebec seperatists in debates and national ad campaigns like his life depended on it. In the U.K. Cameron was apparently in Portugal on vacation during one of the debates which led me to conclude that he simply outsourced the job of holding together the entire northern half the country to a polite white haired manaquin named Alistair Darling. I get it, you can say nice things about Mr Salmond on air and can even been seen seated next to him, but you don't entrust holding a country together with someone who has the enthusiasm of a dentist, you give it to Conan the Barbarian or the Terminator. The gloves have to come off! Keeping a country in one piece means blood, passion, and emotions. Just look at Lincoln and the American Civil War. That's how a real man keeps a country together. The Gettysburg Address, possibly one of only a handful of the most powerful speeches ever given in history is way beyond the intellect and narrow world view of poor Alistair.  Remember Regan in Berlin saying "tear down this wall" ? That's the imagery and passion you need to stir in people's souls to heal a country and remind it of it's shared past, even if it is separated by twenty feet of concrete. I swear that both Allistair and Cameron have been taking down their talking points on a cocktail napkin. 

When the shit hit the fan and it was obvious with two weeks to go that that the "no" campaign had blown a 22 point lead, what do the Eton educated bureacrats decide to centre their entire argument on staying in the union? They lecture everyone on the economics of a seperation, that's it. Their argument is a valid one but that's not the only thing I should be hearing from the news and reading in the papers. We also have some historical 'things' in common like both sending brave men and women off to fight and die together, side by side, defeating Islamic fundamentalism and Germanic fascism. A couple of Scots were also head of the English throne but apparently that's a moot point. 

Cameron should have been running the show. End of discussion. A leader is supposed to lead, but as far as I know I'm not sure he knows where Scotland is on a map because not once has given a roaring speech in front of a stadium of people on a bitterly cold winters day with a picture of what the country is supposed to look like as his backdrop. Jean Chretien did and I was there and part of history. History is filled with leaders who have done this courageous act and called upon their people for help. I was born in England but my passport says "United Kingdom" and no one has inspired me to reach out to my fellow Scottish brothers and sisters and say, "independence may be wonderful until you have to stand in the wind and you wish someone was there to stand against it with you."