is in its final stretch, and I’ve noticed recently that there has been something of a downswing in the mood among in the Unionist Camp, with people vocally blurting, “I don’t know what will happen now! I don’t know what will happen now!” Of course, we never did have a crystal ball to show the outcome beforehand anyway, but up until recently, quite a few of unionists had been hoping for and predicting a grand-crash-victory in favor of the Union, with the Nationalist number pounded down to the bare minimum so they could never rise from the ashes to haunt us again. But then their came the “big bad boost” for the Nats over the last week, with the pollsters scurrying to update information, and often conflicting each other in the process. Panda Bear Salmond’s theatrics on TV in front of a stacked audience didn’t help things much either.
Okay, so the chance of winning an overwhelming victory is pretty much sunk at this point. The Nats have done well, admirably well from an unbiased standpoint. Of course, most of this success is thanks to melodramatics and blatant manipulation of the facts, but they have inspired almost half of the Scottish people with a dream and a sense of community feeling. Sadly, Better Together chose not to appeal to the romantic side of human nature in addition to the practical side, and have suffered for it. As a romanticist by nature, I know how that sort of approach just fails to cut the mustard.
But all this aside – there is presently no cause for despair. Most of the polls still show "No" as being roughly ahead by 4 - 6 points, even with the “disastrous debate” impact. We may not be able to win in an overwhelming tidal wave, but we still can win, even if it be a typical status quo 1-2% minimum victory. What we have to make sure of is that we make good use of this advantage, hold the line at all costs, and get every single vote possible from the “don’t know” camp. This can be done by grassroots Unionists getting out there and being passionate about it, as long as they don’t abandon ship in these last few weeks and let the Nats yell them down and scare them off. As for Mr. Darling, Better Together, Mr. Cameron, and the British Political Parties – I’m not going to criticize them too harshly, since I do believe their hearts are in the right place. But the average people are going to have to make up for where they lack.
What disturbs me most is that some Unionists have concluded that a small victory would be something of a disgrace, and would be just about as bad as a defeat. I totally disagree. On September 19, NO ONE is going to care by what percentage the victory was won by. Yes, it will no doubt mean that the hoard of would-be-Wallaces will reemerge in 10 or 15 years, clambering for independence all over again so they can be bigger fishes in a smaller pond. Yes, a political survival in September is not going to guarantee a revival of Britishness nation-wide. But if anything, it is a gamble for time to change things around us for the better. Besides, even if I felt certain that The UK was doomed to fall in 15 years, in 10 years, in 5 years – I would still consider gaining that extra time well worth the fight.
I’m not going to pretend I know how all this is going to turn out in the end, because I don’t. But there is one thing I am sure about: this cause is worth fighting for, once, twice, a hundred times. It’s not just about keeping a small island unified under one government. It transcends the British people themselves. What we are fighting for is what Britain represents to the world: Hard-won Liberty and the Rule of Law; Unity that respects Diversity; Steadiness in the face of Irrationality; Willingness to Keep Faith with History; Continuity to counter Unthinking Change; a Strong Foundation on which Great Structures can be built. For all her past sins and present failings (or perhaps because of them), the world needs her. She represents us all.
But there is a fear I have. The fear is that the Unionists themselves will be their own worst enemy through a vice that goes beyond simple complacency: it is Pride. Perhaps this has been the most deadly chink in British armor from the beginning of their torrid history. The realization that there is no landslide victory in sight and that almost half the Scottish people are in favor of splitting the union has wounded British pride. In some quarters, I think the attitude is that if we can’t have it all, we won’t have it at all. This is when the reigns can begin to slacken. This is when the space for the nationalists to squeeze through to victory can start to open.
But it must not be so.
Besides, whatever happened to British claims that they did best when up against a wall? Wellington commented after Waterloo, with his typical frankness, that the battle for Europe was “The nearest run thing you ever saw in your life.” Throughout British history, it has been a refrain that those crafty islanders had a canny way of rebounding on a knife’s edge of victory and defeat. I know, it is part of a mythology, romance for the simple-minded and all that. But look at where ignoring romance has gotten “Better Together”! If the British people could just believe in themselves enough, and perhaps take courage from the old stories which show that heroes fight and God is still alive, I wonder what victories could be won.
So we must not mope in corners or demand all or nothing. We must not think too far ahead or bite our nails about the return of the Nats a decade or so hence. We must not lament about when we did or failed to do over the course of long, drawn-out, altogether taxing “neverendum”. We must hold fast to what we know to be true, and fight for what we love, as individuals as well as members of a common cause. Let us look ahead, to the final stretch of this race, instead of peering back over our shoulders. As a certain famous cigar-smoking Brit said in another moment of crisis: “This is not the end, not even be the beginning of the end, but the end of the beginning.”
There is one more analogy I have to make. In The Lord of the Rings, individual actions affecting the bigger picture is beautifully portrayed by the British Catholic author. It is a matter of Providence working through broken vessels who answer the call to duty in the hour of darkness, whether it be by defeating a monster thought indestructible or sparing a creature whose fate would save the world. It is also a matter of "fighting the long defeat", even when all seems hopeless, realizing that the striving for right in and of itself is of worth, aside from the outcome. My point is: never despair of making a difference, no matter how inadequate or alone you feel at times. And for a touch of whimsy (and since ranting Nats often have a certain ork-ish resemblance…), enjoy the following from King Aragorn:
“Hold your ground! Hold your ground! Sons of Gondor! Of Rohan! My brothers. I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of Men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields when the Age of Men comes crashing down, but it is not this day! This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good earth, I bid you stand, Men of the West!”
|The Battle is Upon Us|