It's All About Who They Emulate

One of the suggestions that I make to all my classes is to travel. Get out of the insular territory of America and North America. The knowledge gap between what students or the general population learn in books and what they learn through travel is some cases life changing. While I preach this to my students all the time, when I return from a trip overseas, my suggestion intensifies due to what learning I acquired during that trip.

Case in point. I spent a year at the University of Edinburgh nearly a half century ago. While doing post-graduate work there, I traveled all over Scotland. Few Americans, including those with Scottish backgrounds, have spent as much time in Scotland as I have. I love the land from which many of my relatives came. I have a firsthand knowledge of what places like Edinburgh, Ayr, Melrose, Sterling, Inveraray, Inverness, John o' Groats, Thurso, Aberdeen, St. Andrews, Loch Lomond, Glencoe, etc. have to offer. In addition, I liked the people, professors, and students that I met while there a half century ago. I knew Scotland very well.

Nevertheless, when I recently returned from Scotland having spent a month there, I soon realized that I hadn't mastered Scotland as much as I had thought. Things had changed about which I knew at one level. I had read and written about devolution or the Scottish independence movement before returning to Scotland. I knew a great deal about that movement when almost no American had even heard of it. Nonetheless, I didn't really get my gut. I could have debated anyone on that topic prior to my recent return to Scotland and won any debate. Having been there recently, I really know about what I am talking.

Go to the Wolverton-Mountain page on Facebook page and click on the blue Scottish flag, which has this as a title: A Free Scotland. You will find an index page of articles that I have written about their movement for independence. Any article written from May 13, 2013 to the present is vastly a more informed article than those prior...even though those that were written before returning to Scotland had all the correct data, issues, etc. Most of those articles were controlled by my head. Those starting with "Scottish Independence and Animal Farm" posted on May 13th to the present are essays that I wrote at an entirely deeper level of understanding. Having been again to Scotland, I have bridged the gap between what is known in one's head as well as in one's gut. Trust me.

I wrote an article a year ago entitled Royal Racism...Holier Than Thou. In that article, I wrote about the issue of racism as it relates especially to the UK. We, in America, see racism as a black/white issue. However, racism is far more than that or even a color issue. It has only been in the last 500-years that racism has been tied primarily to the pigmentation of our skin. Racism for much of the 200,000-years of human history was tied generally to how a religion viewed the belief systems of other religion, poverty, ethnicity, or spoils of war.

While researching devolution, I came across an article by Peter Tatchell of The Guardian, who wrote about racism in the UK. "The system of monarchy is, by default, racist...Whichever way the defenders of royalty try to spin it, there is no escaping the fact that non-white people are excluded from holding the title of British head of state."

Tatchell is correct about royal racism. However, it goes deeper than mere color differences. All human beings living now or having lived on earth came from descendants all of whom came from Africa. Humans have been around for at least 200,000-years. Starting around 70,000-100,000-years ago, some Africans left that continent and began the colonization of the earth.

A map of the human out-migration from Africa

A map of the human out-migration from Africa

While there is much debate as to the exact dates of the beginning of homo sapiens and when they began the out-migration of Africa, geneticists have traced all humans in the world to 7-women from Africa by comparing their mitochondrial DNA (mDNA) to all groups still alive or had been living on the earth in the past 200,000-years. There is no debate that all people came from Africa. Finally, it makes no sense to claim a particular race is inherently superior to another race since we all came from the same forbearers. (Read The Seven Daughters of Eve by Bryan Sykes)

Harriet Beecher Stowe   Uncle Tom's Cabin

In America, a decade before the Civil War, Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin. The novel addressed the subject of slavery by telling a story about a black slave, Uncle Tom, who did not betray two other slaves who wanted to escape slavery by running away from a plantation. Since Uncle Tom refused to betray their identity, he was beaten to death by white racists and slaveholders. Uncle Tom, in fact, was a noble man, a good man who was empathic toward all who lived under slavery.

However, somehow the term, Uncle Tom, became synonymous with precisely the opposite of how Harriet Beecher Stowe characterized him. The term now means a person who doesn't see him/herself as being equal to whites. Uncle Toms are inferior people. An Uncle Tom would sell him/herself out to other blacks to win favor with whites. In spite of this mistaken spin on Stowe's character, it is that erroneous meaning that I want to use to explain what I saw in Scotland, which is the result of royal racism.

The phenomenon of Uncle Tom-ism, the notion of inferiority of one group in relation to another group, was seen by me in many of my informal interviews of Scots about leaving the UK. It became quite clear that many Scots were fearful of going on their own. I asked people on the street, shops, or restaurants about how they felt about devolution. Those opposed to it would often say that they didn't feel that Scotland could function as well as an independent nation as it could by remaining in the UK. Many of them felt safer tied to the queen and country.

I took my informal poll a couple dozen times a day for an entire month. In fact, I started my informal interviews while in London before I even got to Scotland. I interviewed a person on the tube (a term used by Brits for a subway), which my wife and I took from London to Heathrow Airport to fly to Scotland. This was my first informal interview even before getting to Scotland. I asked a man sitting across from us on the tube about whether he knew which terminal we should get off at Heathrow if we were flying to Edinburgh. He told us and said that he was from Glasgow. A nanosecond didn't lapse before he received my first interview, and it took as long to find out that he was all for devolution. His name is Doug Norris and is quite knowledgeable about Scottish independence. We arranged for a formal interview that we videotaped when we got to Glasgow where he lives a couple weeks later.

While Doug was all for Scottish independence, some others weren't. Many weren't sure that Scotland could go it alone even though eight or nine other countries smaller than Scotland are already doing so as independent members of the EU.

However, many might have liked the idea of independence but were scared by the vision of going it alone in today's world. I was in Inverness one day and was seeing the sites and continuing my informal interviews to anyone with whom I happened to be talking. This person was my age and was working in a place that dealt with tourists...both locals and those from other countries. I asked him something connected to his work, and, after addressing my question, I asked him about Scottish independence.

This Scot started out worried about the future of Scotland and restating what I often heard from others. My face must have either signaled some questioning disbelief at what he was saying or more likely, he was finally pulling all his thoughts and words together. He looked directly into my eyes, quenched his right-hand and beat his fist upon his chest. The sound rattled me. It was clear that he was about to tell me something important to which I should listen. He then picking up from a 5-10 second pause, "...but in my heart, I want Scotland free."

Essentially, he seemed to have bought into the fear of the future modality, but, in his heart, he knew in the very depth of his being that he desired a free and independent Scotland.

Two years ago and even with all my research, I could never have written this article. Even though I understood the issue in my head, but I didn't know it in my heart. I also didn't know why many feared the future if Scotland became independent. I now know at a far deeper level why some are against devolution. I would suggest they choose to be more like Harriet Beecher Stove's Uncle Tom than how we have morphed his character into an interior person fearful of his abilities.

William Wallace

William Wallace

These final two paragraphs are written to the people of Scotland. William Wallace was said to have uttered these words: "Aye, fight and you may die. Run, and you'll least a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin' to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they'll never take...OUR FREEDOM!"

It is interesting that you can emulate both the real Uncle Tom and William Wallace by how you decide to vote on September 18, 2014. I know that Uncle Tom, William Wallace, and I will be proud of you.

Scottish independence: Yes campaign

Scottish independence flag

Visit the Scottish Independence page to read more about this topic.