“Stain not the glory of your worthy ancestors, but like them resolve never to part with your birthright; be wise in your deliberations, and determined in your exertions for the preservation of your liberties. Follow not the dictates of passion, but enlist yourselves under the sacred banner of reason; use every method in your power to secure your rights.”
― Joseph Warren, American patriot
I am American, but my heart belongs to Scotland.
I was born and raised thirty-one miles from Graceland, brought up on the blues; I cut my teeth on sweet tea and Shakespeare with a southern drawl. I’ve been fascinated by the Civil War and civil rights, I have walked barefoot in the Mississippi and waded knee-deep in the mud. I have fallen asleep listening to the whisper of the wind through fifty year old pines, and I have shared a patch of clover with a hundred buzzing bees, and I have truthfully named this place as home.
But still, my heart belongs to Scotland.
I married a Scottish man almost eleven years ago. It rained on our wedding day. It was November, and it was cold, and we were piped in on a wave of bright tartan. Within 14th century walls, we said we would and we did, and just like that, it was home. For six years, I worked, lived, and loved in Scotland. I fell asleep with the faint glow of the Grangemouth refinery lighting up our open window. I wandered through Callendar Wood and sat with the smallness of myself under trees with too many rings to count. I learned to navigate the buses and trains and took myself to art exhibits in Edinburgh and special screenings in Glasgow. I found foxes in our garden hedge and watched deer disappear in the thick fog of early morning. Our first child was born into the waiting hands of an NHS midwife, her neat uniform wrinkled all over from my clenched fists. We ordered takeaways, we got drunk on McEwan’s, and we made an almost impossibly good life in our little number 7 terraced.
We moved back to the US five years ago, for a number of reasons, none of which include a lessening of love for Scotland. Things are different here, but so much the same, as the UK marches ever onward to a re-imagining of itself in America’s image. Privatisation of the NHS, a growing divide between the richest rich and the poorest poor, a rising backlash against immigration, and a tender concern for corporations instead of citizens — watching this happen from afar has produced a distant sort of depression, a sense that this is simply the way things are now, the dead weight of dreams boxed up and labeled as too idealistic, too romantic, too naive. The thing with cynicism is the way it creeps around the corners unseen — if you’re not careful, it begins to color the world around you. You find yourself saying “no” more often, meeting optimism with contempt, mocking the notion of effective change. You begin to grow cranky and grey. The sweet light you were born into grows dim around the edges. “Yes” starts to feel foreign on your tongue.
But then, something happens. Something stirs under the surface, moving with the heaviness of hibernation, gaining life and breath and limberness as it comes. It is reclamation in slow motion — the coming of age of a liberty long stifled and stood upon. The roots of it reach down through the centuries, and as it begins to break ground, as it begins to gulp down great lungfuls of air and turn its face towards the sun, the self-imposed blindness of cynicism starts to fall away. A silhouette appears on the horizon, and it takes the shape of hope; this is peaceful revolution that goes beyond a ballot box, and it is history in the making.
And so, it is and it isn’t about the politics. It is and it isn’t about the economics. It is and it isn’t about keeping the pound, about the relocation of RBS headquarters, about Trident and Asda and the blatant lies of the BBC. It is and it isn’t about David Cameron and his stupid questions and stupid answers. It is and it isn’t about No Thanks and Better Together and cereal bowls and crackpot campaigns. It is and it isn’t about oil reserves and broken promises and budget cuts and the purring of a Queen.
It is about the momentum of independence. It is about a democracy which insists on the participation of its citizens. It is about the idea and implementation of inclusive nationalism. It is about an abiding romanticism coupled with an almost painful pragmatism. It is about the legacy of free will, a call to arms for cultural autonomy, and a long-standing desire for devolution. It is about seeking out that sacred banner of reason and flying it for all the world to see. It is about being brave in the face of a birthright you have both hidden from and ached for.
It is about saying YES even in the face of NO. It is about saying YES to the unknown, accepting that you don’t have all the answers. It is about saying YES to getting in on the ground level of building a better country. It is about saying YES to our young people, those bright-burning beacons of optimism and purpose and passion. It is about saying YES to what you should have had for hundreds of years. It is about saying YES to being worthy on your own terms. It is about saying YES to governing your own beautiful selves, your own beautiful country, and saying YES because you know you are entirely capable of it. It is about saying YES over and over again, even when you’re weary, even when you’re defeated, even when you’re a minority.
It’s about proving them wrong by doing it right.
It’s about faith in the face of fear.
It’s about bringing our kids home to a better Scotland.
It’s about inspiring the world.
It’s about doing it better than America has.
But mostly? Mostly, it’s about this:
“…for, as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.”