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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

My Referendum Reflections...

are pretty long and drawn-out, but I shall try to give an overview of the past week and the very momentous decision made by the Scottish People with regards to “independence”...

    Admittedly this little process has been haunting me for the past 2-and-a-half years. I can remember early on, in 2012, the sheer weight of the proposition falling on me, and the first article announcing it in one of our newspapers, with the headlines reading in bold: "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do". I felt a wave of nausea run through me, and found myself unable to eat much that evening. My parents began to worry about my sudden mood swing, and when I finally blurted out my fears through a sudden gush of tears, my mom commented that it really must be hitting me hard, since I rarely cried so easily. Strange to say, but after that, tears came to me much easier.

    I know it may sound strange, perhaps melodramatic and sappy, but the emotions were very real for me. I cannot give a completely reasonable answer as to why I love Britain so much; I just do, and always have. Perhaps God put that love in me from the beginning, before I even knew it was there. Whatever the situation, I realized then that I would have to try to get involved, that I would have to try to help. I was already had a stake in the British culture, and with the British people. There was no pulling it out now. 

   So I wrote articles and conducted interviews, argued with Nationalists and befriended Unionists. 2012 passed. 2013 passed. As the summer of 2014 waned, and the dreaded 18th of September drew nearer, the polls began to fluctuate dangerously. Suddenly it seemed we were losing what we should be winning, coming up against people who were refusing to listen to reason. When one of the polls hiked the “Yes” Camp up to 2% ahead of us, things started looking dire. The British government declared a state of emergency, and everything began to remind of me of the vote. From The SAR competition, to The McLain Celtic Festival, to the Anniversary Celebration of the Battle of Baltimore, I felt haunted by the concept that America and Britain, after such a long and torrid relationship of fighting both against and alongside each other, might lose each other forever. Yes, lose each other, because Britain would lose herself! 

    The night before, I had just completed my Union Jack Chat project, with 25 interviews in the bag, the last one being my own, trying my best to explain why I loved this people, with their tea and toast and darling eccentricities, their wit and fire and quiet courage through hard times. It left me crying all over again, because I felt so utterly helpless to stop the break-up of their country, and I felt unprepared to face it myself. Part of me just wanted to quit the fight altogether in those final weeks when the polls soared high for the Nationalists and it seemed we were fighting the Last Battle. I could barely eat, sleep, write, pray.

    But somehow I kept going with it. Even when I felt the most despairing, I still found some sparkle of hope inside me that caused me to pray. I don’t believe I have ever prayed so hard for anything, in spontaneous words, too! I found myself typing away mechanically, listening to my father’s rendition of “God’s Way” on my PC headphones: “I did what I had to do/I saw it through without exception…What is a man? What has he got? If not himself, than he has not/To say the things he truly feels/And the not the words of one who kneels/The record shows I took the blows and did it God’s Way…”

    Now, I didn’t make some sort of pompous presumption I was on a specifically God-ordained mission, but I do believe that providence provides a place for us all, and that my duty was dictating me to see this thing through. To me, there was a very clear moral aspect to this battle. We were not meant to sever the bonds of common nationhood and abandon each other because the road gets tough sneaky politicians give us pie in the sky. We were meant to draw together to do good in the world, not purposely make ourselves weak in an effort to hide from both internal and external troubles. It’s cowardly. It’s wrong.

    Something stood out to me in the midst of all this chaos. The British were on the rocks of national dissolution, and yet somehow Auntie Joanna of London still managed to take pride and pleasure in a cricket game that was scheduled to take place on September 19 between the Vatican Team and the COE Team. And the thing that made it the most surreal was that it was seemingly taken for granted that this game would most certainly be held in Britain, and there would be great British fair play, and it would be Britain at its best. I could not help but chuckle at the thought of Sir Francis Drake insisting that he had to finish his game of bowls and beat the Spanish Armada that was sailing towards the English coast in 1588.

     I’m not saying that the Brits were all perfectly composed during this whole thing. Many of them appeared to be crashing on the rocks of despair and disillusionment. But there were always visible signs of that other side of their national character, that never-say-die attitude that makes them who they are. There are so many people who I am proud to have worked alongside in the final days, especially John, the lone friend I met during my brief and generally lack-luster sojourn in the Dead Marshes of the Catholic Singles Website.

     A Manchester-man, I went to him for aid when my ancient PC started to die just a week before the vote, and pleaded with him to help me advertise UJC, in hopes of reaching some undecided voters and encouraging the Unionists. Riding into the fray like a knight in shining armor in the nick of time, not only did he do a terrific job advertising on Facebook and Reddit, boosting our number of views by the hundreds, but he sent me a series of wonderfully optimistic emails to help keep my head above water. The quote that particularly made me smile was the line: “When you’re going through hell, keep going!”

     John’s attitude, and the determined grit of so many of his countrymen, made me recall the old WWII lyrics, “The White Cliffs of Dover”: “I’ll never forget the people I’ve met braving those angry skies/I remember well as the shadows fell the light of hope in their eyes/And though I’m far away, I still can hear them say: “Thumbs Up! For when the dawn comes up/There’ll be bluebirds over the White Cliffs of Dover/Tomorrow, just you wait and see…”

To be continued…

The White Cliffs of Dover

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