A Rebellious Scot to Crush

FeaturedA Rebellious Scot to Crush

The Ballot is stronger than the Bullet

I have just recovered from a dreadful cold, the kind that means you read a lot but don’t speak much. I began a very different piece from this during the GE17 campaign. But as everyone knows real life gets in the way of plans and I had to start again. I don’t need to tell you how exasperated I was when Madam May called her shoddy election in April, I thought then it was a cynical attempt to capitalise on the division that is showing itself in this country. But now we’re on the far side of that decision is it possible to see that election period for what it was? It was the most assaulting period in my memory and I remember Thatcher, Major and the big let down that was Blair- i even remember 9/11 and the hell that unleashed on the world. No- since the election was called it has been like the genie has escaped the bottle and it has been running mayhem all around!

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The political race was as unpleasant as it ever has been, with the Tories shouting out the ‘Strong and Stable/ Coalition of Chaos’ mantra for all to yawn at. Then the 22nd of May 2017 came… a date which for some will always haunt them, for most the attack in Manchester which killed 22 men, women and children attending a pop concert. Somehow until that point these attacks, although terrible you could in some ways get that however the circumstances people die. But this attack really shook me- Manchester was a placed I lived for University. I used to wander the streets listening to my iPod, enjoying getting lost and finding new way home. It was a safe place, a place where being on your own never meant you where at threat. Hearing the terrible news of the attack at a pop concert made me physically ill. All I could think of was how that city I knew so well would be changed and then to hear that children were killed made me not want to know anymore. I have children, my 8-year-old daughter loves her music; all I could think was how easily it could have been my child. In that moment everything changed for me- the attacks we had all come to shake our heads at and carry on- were now too close for comfort.

The political climate also changed in those following days- the seed of the present Hung Parliament was most definitely planted then, when Mrs May was shown for true colours. A hopeless state of a leader, without any shred of humanity showing through her robotic body language and doll-like eyes. She tried to hang Jeremy Corbyn out to dry by his very gentle Irish republican roots. All it did was show that Jeremy Corbyn for all his flaws is in fact a human being. Like Churchill said ‘if you have enemies it means you’ve stood up for something’! Corbyn isn’t my candidate for leader, I want an independent Scotland, he won’t help me achieve that. The thing that has people flocking to Corbyn is his humanity; his ability to show people his feelings and to never abandon his principles when they become inconvenient. The biggest criticism a BBC QT audience could find in him was that he wasn’t willing to use Nuclear weapons as a first strike option. TBH I want a leader who talks rather than bombs, Mrs May showed her lack of empathy and need to control by failing to debate her policies with the electorate. She sank the Tory boat with a manifesto which would hit her core voters hardest and then refused to debate the issue- instead she flung out a series of Tory MPs or in some case now ex-MPs to defend what they didn’t believe. The Tory ship was sinking and Mrs May was rearranging the deck chairs!

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So when the London Bridge and Borough Market attack came on 3rd June 2017, we had a government in crisis trying to tell the electorate that the opposition was the problem. They were hoping that an electorate could be frightened into ignoring the fact that the wannabe PM ran the Home Office for 6 of the last 10 years and had presided over cuts to funding of vital services from a Party who views austerity as a political philosophy. Once again we heard platitudes about these terrorists not being allow to disrupt Democracy. They may have killed and injured people and scared many more with what they experienced but the election went ahead on June 8th 2017 and the hammer fell on Mrs May’s idea of an increased majority, to strengthen her hand. Instead she has ended up looking like the chicken whose head was chopped off but whose body hadn’t got the message it was dead! Her hubris has led her party to a loss of its majority and a country into a hung parliament which it didn’t need. Only she is to blame for mess we’re all in, her party is to blame for Brexit (which was an issue that never needed to be looked at) but who’se to blame for those terrible human beings who murdered people just living their lives? A much harder Question for this mere mortal to answer.

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The country returned a hung parliament and i was one of those on Election night cheering at the idea of the Tories being scalped. But in the cold light of day what are we left with- a barely breathing tory government being given life support by a 10 strong group of DUP MPs. Surely this scenario is the stuff of which nightmares are made! The bare fact is that the Troubles; as the war in the North of Ireland was so quaintly known, only came to an end with the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. This agreement which was born from such travail and cost so much to so many, may be torn apart by one woman’s need to call a pointless election for her own vainglorious ego! That aforementioned agreement depends on the Irish and British governments being honest brokers, trusted by either side. How can the British Government now be said to be non-partisan; when they are beholden to the DUP for their 10 votes in the British House of Commons. When Grenfell Tower in the Royal Borough caught fire on June 14th 2017, the fiery tower could be seen as the living image of a country in burning itself to ashes. More people died in that tower than in the terror attacks before and after it to date. It is the embodiment of everything that is wrong with politics and with society, were profit is put before people, were responsibility is a dirty word and no one in power (which we gave them) can give an honest answer. Therefore when a crackpot decided to drive from Wales to Finsbury Park in London to kill Muslims, were we surprised anymore? Maybe only that it took so long for the far right in Britain to spit out one its dysfunctional toe rags/ wannabe terrorists. He took a life, the fire took lives; so many that we may never know all their names and the terrorists who claim Islam as the reason also took so many lives. I cannot help but feel that we’re being pushed inch by inch, incident by incident, vote by vote towards an abyss.

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With today being Princess Diana’s 56th birthday and this year being 20 years since her death, it brought me to thinking about Rumi the Persian scholar and poet: he wrote “And so it is, that both the Devil and the Angelic spirit present us with objects of desire to awaken our power of choice”. That is perhaps were we are at as a society- we each have a choice to make. It is after all a choice between what we want and what we need. It’s like Abe Lincoln said ‘the ballot is stronger than the bullet’. We should all hope that Abe’s sentiment is right and that somehow cooler heads prevail.

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Know Your History…

FeaturedKnow Your History…

Terror visited the streets of Westminster, the hallowed seat of British power, on March 22nd 2017! This attack however disgusting and barbaric is not a first for the Palace of Westminster, I’m thinking of the gun powder plot and the Blitz. Despite this type of attack being nothing new, past attacks like those this week show threats to democracy will always fail. The whisper of truth is always more powerful than the shouting of lies and yet the old phrase that the lie is half way around the world before the truth has its boots on, is still on my mind.

This past week in the U.K. there was the attack on Westminster but also there was the funeral of Martin McGuinness. He was a former IRA member and a former deputy first minister of Northern Ireland, he was in a word- complicated. Much like the ‘Troubles’ that he participated in directly and the new world that he helped build in the North of Ireland. When you have someone like Norman Tebbit, giving his tuppence worth to any media outlet who will listen, calling McGuinness ” a coward who never atoned for his crimes”. I’m left wondering if people like Tebbit are the reason the past is never laid to rest, why the world keeps allowing the same mistakes over and over again. Tebbit wishes McGuinness “an eternity in hell”, no doubt because an IRA bomb paralysed his wife, a torment for her but nothing less than plain old revenge for him.

Whereas surely Martin McGuiness’ life teaches much more about the possibilities of life, rather than it’s horrors! I don’t discount or forget what the IRA did during and after the Troubles, your past isn’t forgiven because you turn your back on violence. McGuinness didn’t ask for forgiveness; but he did do something that until he made the choice was impossible- the removal of the gun from the politics of Northern Ireland. Norman (get on your bike) Tebbit, is a Tory- to the rest of the world that means a person who believes that greed is good, if you’re poor it’s because you don’t work hard enough and in Tebbit’s case forgiveness is a sign of weakness!

The reporting on the BBC this week about the death of Martin McGuinness, was both enlightening and infuriating. Firstly his death demonstrated just how far the North really has come from the Good Friday Peace of 1998! If Ian Paisley, a man who symbolised the Unionist position could shake his hand, share a joke and an office and his wife could say about Martin; “you don’t know what god used on Martin McGuinness, but he did change”! Then that’s the ultimate sign of changed times, it wasn’t quite the damascene conversion that Lady Paisley envisioned but the DUP leader Arlene Foster turning up at his funeral in Free Derry and receiving a round of applause! 20 years ago in Derry you wouldn’t have heard applause, only gunfire!

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Martin McGuinness’ Funeral

Having visited Derry and Belfast a couple of years ago, it’s fair to say that on the ground things have changed, Stuarty and I stayed in once the most bombed hotel in Europe, the Europa. A very fine establishment, across from an even better pub! However we did go to Derry, we had a lovely lunch and then visited the Free Derry Bloody Sunday museum! Without going on full rant, it is museum based on the terrible events of a civil rights march in January 1972, whereby catholic citizens of Derry were protesting the gerrymandering of the political process, by unionists. It’s not called Bloody Sunday because it was day of traffic disruption, it was so-called because British Paratroopers opened fire on the marchers and killed 14 of them!

For years the British government stonewalled everybody, stating that the IRA opened fire on the ‘Brits’ first and that some of those shot were brandishing weapons. Only now more than 40 years later do we have it confirmed, what many long suspected, that these people were complete innocents. And that the British Army committed nothing more or less than murder on the streets of Derry that day. Now this is the setting of McGuinness’ life! When viewed from that perspective, his willingness to shake hands with members of the British Establishment and to join with the unionists for the sake of peace, seems extraordinary. No more extraordinary than the unionists agreeing to power share with a former IRA man. For nobody with any power in Northern Ireland, doesn’t have blood on their hands. McGuinness teaches a valuable lesson, that any progress requires both sides to set aside prejudices and notions of revenge for a better future.

People like that nutcase who killed people in Westminster, will never win, never see their way come to pass, because it takes courage to forgive! It doesn’t mean you forget, it doesn’t mean that everybody agrees; all it means it that there has to be something better than an eye for eye- it only serves to make the whole world blind! Martin McGuinness showed he was the master of his own fate, men like Tebbit will be weighed down by their hate and those so-called soldiers of Islam can never achieve their aims. McGuinness was not a perfect man, he never claimed to be, but his life and indeed his death shows, that even the most complicated of people can in the end provide the simplest of examples! So that even in these times were the Northern Irish Assembly is in turmoil, people are still talking and trying to reach a compromise and they’re not reaching for bombs and guns.

So in closing this past week has shown the complexity of human beings; in their capacity for cruelty and their capacity to care! To me in these times of Trump and Brexit, it makes me think there are more good people than bad, more positive forces than negative and more reason and sense than prejudice and hate. It’s just that they shout the loudest, it doesn’t however make it true!

N.B. I do not own these images- Fair Useage and All that Jazz…

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Candles on Westminster Bridge