Openness and transparency do not undermine unity. They strengthen it. Lovers, brothers, sisters, and friends can tell one another uncomfortable truths. They can exchange cross words. They can even – and often do – have open pitched battled. But real and authentic relationships are not destroyed by such openness. They are strengthened. Silence, avoidance of the hard truths, disequilibria of power, and abuse foster environments which are highly toxic and inimical to true unity.
How marvellous will it be to think, in a free and independent Scotland, that the final phase of our journey began with a picnic in the capital? I can tell you, that will be the most beautiful thing – the bun fight that sent London packing. This coming Saturday I am going to Edinburgh. I am going to walk through our ancient capital. I am going to take in the sights. And I am going to walk to Holyrood Park for a picnic. After I have scoffed my pieces and drained my flask I am going to stand up and talk to my friends. If anyone wants to stop me, they had better bring an army.
Sectarianism is a serious social problem in our country, for sure, but there is little we can do about it when it happens outside institutions. We can’t police people’s homes to stop parents poisoning the minds of their children. The best we can do here is improve diversity awareness and education in schools and hope some of it sticks. But racism, prejudice, bigotry, and sectarianism thrive in institutions where such cultures have gone unchallenged and allowed to fester.
Britain is not a nation. It is a vicious imperial political construct that has been imposed upon us, but it has power over us only for as long as we accept that it has a valid claim on us. We of course have to accommodate ourselves to some extent to this imposition by having a foreign royal and imperial insignia on our passports, by being UK citizens, and such like – we can’t function in the world without these things – but nothing of this means even in the slightest that we are British.
Part of this impatience, I suspect, is the demand for a UDI – a unilateral declaration of independence. Now, some of my closest friends in the movement are supporters of such a declaration. It forces our elected representatives to pin their colours to the mast and act, at our behest, for Scotland and independence. It sounds good. It’s attractive. It would certainly get us where we want to go. But my thoughts on it might land me in a spot of bother. I am not a fan.
This living on the threshold has taken a toll on us. Since the late 1990s, when the scales were first taken from our eyes, we have had to come to terms with new realities and battle for our faith in new and unfamiliar territories. My own journey, like that of many other Catholics, was one that made it impossible for me to consider myself a 'Roman' Catholic. The hierarchy had been – perhaps forever – tainted. It no longer held the moral authority, no matter what the Church taught, to hold my allegiance. The papacy was no longer the infallible and unassailable Rock it had once been.
As with so many modern justice struggles, feminism – in many of its more recent iterations – has become hypersensitive to the merest slight, seeing in every criticism and angry word the ancient Titans of sexual inequality, misogyny, and structural sexism. Every man becomes the enemy and every utterance from the lips of men a proof of misogyny and violence against women. But this disease isn’t limited to modern feminism. It is eating away at the soul of all the great social movements’ progeny. Socialism, racial justice, gender rights – the works...
We can’t defend the indefensible. The Church in Ireland and all around the world failed children and vulnerable people. There was – and to a great extent remains – a culture of abuse within the structures of the Church. The sexual, physical, and psychological abuse of children in the care of Church authorities was a terrible wrong, but the scandal was far worse; it was the abuse of power on the part of an ecclesiastical hierarchy that protected abusers and covered up their abuse – often shielding them, by the use of canon law among other things, from civil justice.