By John F. Di Leo -
As we reflect on the historic vote in Scotland this week (all votes seem to be “historic” these days, don’t they? Might have more to do with news network ratings than actual history), we Americans find ourselves rather conflicted.
On the one hand, we cheer for the idea of independence, a race memory of sorts that dates back to our own War for Independence over 230 years ago. We feel a special affinity for all members of the British Empire; we speak the same language, share the same customs, even enjoy many of the same television shows. Their heroes are our heroes, from James Bond in the Cold War to The Doctor in the Time War.
Even if our bloodline doesn’t reach to England itself – I’m more Irish, Italian, German and Austrian, myself, than the meager drops of Scottish and English blood I have, generations back – this shared history causes us all to watch the Scottish independence debate with a fraternal feeling. We like both sides, and root for both sides, as Anglophiles and as one-time members of that great Empire ourselves.
Right up to election day, I couldn’t decide how I would have voted, if I were there. What should we have hoped for? As cool as the concept of independence may seem, there’s a cold political evaluation to be done: Scotland is a net welfare state, an economic drag on England, and the source of lots of awful Members of Parliament, without whom Britain would enjoy a conservative political majority for generations. Despite its oil, Scotland cannot support itself; at least, it presently doesn’t.
So here’s where American analysts found ourselves – and perhaps it’s where English analysts found themselves too, whether they admit it or not: Should we hope for Yes, to save England, or for No, to save Scotland?
As it turned out, "No" prevailed, with a solid 55-45 result, probably the strongest vote that Yes will ever get in Scotland. The three-century old union is probably a lock for the next three centuries now, too.
Here on our side of the Pond, perhaps, we were also able to be a bit more objective than those close to the vote. They could get all excited over their identities as Scots and Englishmen separately, and as Brits together… but we could look at the participants in the battle, and think it through.
How could we, in good conscience, root for the independence of a nation whose leader would be the nasty anti-semitic socialist Alex Salmond? The more we saw of that Hamas-sympathizing leftist, the more we realized we just can’t side with them. It’s not always fair to judge a cause by its champions, but oh, what an embarrassment that one would be. So we Americans found ourselves, however reluctantly, cheering for No, even if only to keep from being stuck with yet another worthless head of state on the world scene.
This reflection serves another purpose, if we let it: it gives us a chance to remind us of how lucky we are.
The Scottish nationalists were doomed this week, at least in part, by Alex Salmond being the public face of independence. By contrast, think of how fortunate we Americans were, to be blessed with the wonderful leaders of our own independence struggle:
We had the stirring pen of Thomas Jefferson, who explained the reasons for our separation with clarity that commanded the world’s respect.
We had the philosophical might of George Mason, to draft bills of rights for the states individually, and then for the nation as a whole, to set in stone for eternity.
We had the fiery argument of Thomas Paine to win the people to the Glorious Cause, through pamphlets devoured by the hungry minds of concerned citizens up and down the coast.
We had the focused brilliance of Gouverneur Morris, Roger Sherman, James Wilson, and fifty more brilliant delegates, cooperating to design a new form of government intended to preserve our liberties rather than to perpetuate itself.
We had the thoughtful intellects of Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, to explain that system to the people, and win their hearts and minds to this revolutionary system of checks and balances.
And at the very top, the public face of American Independence was General George Washington, a merchant and farmer, a warrior and statesman, acknowledged even by his rival King George III as clearly “the greatest man in the world.”
Today’s Scottish Nationalist movement doesn’t have anyone like them – or like the many dozens of other great Founding Fathers not mentioned above (we were blessed with far too many to name here!).
But it’s not just the Scots; no other country has anyone like them either. That gathering of minds in late 18th century America was a special gift, a marvelous historical event that could only happen once in human history.
No other country has ever been so fortunate in its founding as was this blessed land of ours, the United States of America. Never before or since have so many brilliant statesmen, thoughtfully devoted to the prosperity and freedom of their countrymen, been present – and empowered – at the same time to cooperate in the building of a nation.
When we Americans watch the affairs of foreign powers – their struggles and causes, their false starts and cultural prejudices, their achievements and defeats – we’ll do well to think back on how lucky we are, and to thank Divine Providence for blessing us with the greatest public servants, the greatest champions of human freedom, that this world has ever known.
Copyright 2014 John F. Di Leo
John F. Di Leo is a Chicago-based Customs broker and international trade compliance trainer. A former party volunteer and campaign consultant, he served as county chairman of the Milwaukee County Republican Party in the mid-1990s, and has now been a recovering politician for over seventeen years (but, like any addiction, you’re never really cured).
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