I felt something yesterday that disturbed me. It’s the kind of feeling I would get when I realised I have forgotten something really important I was meant to bring at a work meeting or when I forgot to fulfil a promise I made to my kids. In one word: panic. I had to check myself before taking a breath, since I am usually the culprit and sole producer of my guilt panics. But this time I am sure I have done nothing wrong; I’m innocent… Why then did I get the deep worries? Why that familiar pain at the top of my stomach? Well, because I am an indy supporter and campaigner and I have spent the last 12 years of my life trying to convince folk to vote YES. Why would that produce any negative reactions deep in my gut? I can assure you that I have not changed my mind and I am as pro-independence as I ever was. It’s that leaflet. The one with the big colourful YES at the top and the twee photo of a mother and baby on the front that got pushed through some of our letterboxes earlier this week.
As soon as I saw it I felt disgusted. It’s not the mammi and babbi which bears all the boring and repetitively unimaginative signs of having been designed by someone who couldn’t be bothered. It’s that horrendous, bold and highlighted headline:
“INDEPENDENCE IS ESSENTIAL FOR YOU, YOUR FAMILY … AND TO GET RID OF THE TORIES FOR GOOD”
So why I am so uncomfortable with it? I agree that Independence is essential for a fairer society under the current circumstances. All good there. But then… wait a second! Did they actually print something that states “independence is essential (among other things) to get rid of a specific demographic within this country for good”? I mean, it’s bad enough as it is, but to be honest, party politics are my least favourite kind of politics and I think we have all seen a great deal of nastiness from one side or another at multiple times in our lives. Which is why I have only ever had a short-lived membership to one party and I cancelled it years ago… name-calling is just not the way I like to fight my fights. But this is not supposed to be a party-political leaflet. This purports to come from a non-partisan YES campaign. The grassroots champions, the one that will keep those party politicians in check… Clearly not. I would still have plenty of beef with the headline if it used “No voters” instead of “Tories”, but it would at least be less cynical in its deceit.
That’s it then, that’s the YES movement completely absorbed into the SNP. Those of us who don’t consider the current SNP a party we would gladly subscribe to, but are independence supporters, can just give up the fight, because this organisation doesn’t feel like what it says it is. It seems to make independence purely party political.
But again, as annoying as this is, the open and very obvious SNP takeover of YES is hardly a surprise and it is still not what I find deeply disturbing about that headline. They are actually (actually!) saying that if you are a conservative voter, you must pack your things and go. There is no place for you in The New Scotland. No allowance for you to think differently from ‘us’. And that’s it ‘us’. I am part of that ‘us’ aren’t I? I voted YES in 2014. I of course would vote YES again tomorrow and the day after tomorrow and until Scotland would gain its independence. I believe the United Kingdom is a failed administration and an unequal partnership. YES, Scotland should be independent… YES, I identify with the independence movement… YES I live within the ‘US’.
But, hold on a second. I don’t believe that people who think differently than me should pack their things and go! I certainly don’t agree that this is essential for me and my family. I actually have many pals who are unionists, Tories, Labour, Greens… they provide richness to my life in many ways and one of them is by being different from me. Another one is by accepting me as I am, with my politics, with my ethnicity, with my own religious and philosophical views; they don’t seem to need to agree with me to accept my existence in their environment. And I feel the same way about them. We sometimes debate, we sometimes let live. But I have never, ever, been told that I should be gotten rid of. And I cannot be part of an ‘us’ that demands this from its individuals.
I felt similarly hurt by a certain statement that a certain orange-toned president of a wealthy western nation made about my country and its people when in his 2016 campaign launch rally. Remember, I’m Mexican and he actually said “They’re rapists… And some, I assume, are good people” in front of thousands of already racially motivated unhappy people. In the same speech, he later explained in detail how Mexico (as a country) would take America’s jobs, because you know, it is trying to be better and pull out of poverty. He actually in the same speech said the words: “It’s coming from more than Mexico. It’s coming from all over South and Latin America, and it’s coming probably — probably — from the Middle East. But we don’t know.” What, because of, we’re all brown, and poor, and clearly savages who are not worth that ‘American Dream’ we all grew up gawking at on every film and tv programme? Mind, some might be good people. Mind.
I don’t think I need to remind anyone about the cruelty and abhorrence which this way of thinking and this way of rallying a following has resulted in. Within its own borders and outwith. Because remember, we’re rapists, criminals, the lot! We shouldn’t really try to build on our industry or manufacturing because that would cause stress to people within America who would not get that factory job and instead would need to fill in the slavery jobs usually filled-in by the rapist and scummy Mexicans. He very clearly wanted to ‘get rid of Mexicans for good’ and it was ‘essential for his followers and their families’.
But ok, I have no intention of being simplistic. There are hundreds of years of history and waaaay too much background feeding the unhappiness on both sides of the anti-Mexican argument and in my opinion, Trump was just the result of it all. So of course it is not completely fair to compare it to this new YES rhetoric. You can’t help where you were born. There are borders between countries, and whether folk agree with it or not, they are there to be respected. OK.
Ah, well, the discomfort in my gut is not single layered, you see? I also happen to be the grandchild of refugees from the Spanish Civil War at the beginning of the 20th century. There we have another occasion when this YES pamphlet would have been quite happily adopted by the people in power. Franco wanted his way or the high way. Forget diversity, forget that some of the ethnicities and cultures within the kingdom of Spain are the oldest in European history… that is just inconvenient and outdated. Forget that they had very specific voting, organisational and philosophical patterns within their demographics. They would not agree with him in his vision of ‘One Spain’, and thus they had to go. And they did. Those who didn’t get murdered had to flee; those who stayed were persecuted, their children taken away and ‘re-educated’. These were people within the same country.
These were all Spanish citizens; no Mexican ‘bad hombres’ there. They just believed in another way of governance, in another set of morals and philosophies. The fascist persecution and abuse was most obviously directed to the ethnic diversity within the kingdom, but in my grandmother’s case (she was born and bred in Madrid) it was her father’s socialist ideals and affiliations that almost caused their death by execution (if they hadn’t fled to Mexico).
Surely not even the most fervent of ‘us’ YES voters, would want that… would we? Surely, whether ethnically or nationally different, whether socialist, conservative or neo liberal, we ALL deserve a place in the country we call home? Surely we deserve more than that, even. We deserve to have a voice. We deserve freedom of speech and freedom of beliefs. We deserve not to be the subjects of a mass rally calling for our removal.
I DO NOT and will NEVER ally with any system who openly proposes the eradication or exile of people based on their philosophy, religion, race or identity. I don’t even want to be part of a movement whose leaders sound like they think like this. I cannot be part of this ‘us’.