Where were you when…

I encourage you to use your vote, whatever it may be.

I encourage you to use your vote, whatever it may be.

 

I’ve been wanting to write this for a while now, and haven’t, for various reasons. Communicating has been difficult, and increasingly so, for a while, for me. I’m resorting to bullet points in the same way that a stutterer may sing their words; they make this particular communication possible. Am putting it down for me, no-one else, cos I need to.

Here are my thoughts on today and the Scottish referendum:

– I’ve voted Yes. Lets get that out of the way.

– When the question originally came up, I had an immediate, emotional response of “Hell no!” A British patriotism that surprised me quite a bit, as I’ve never felt very British. It’s just I feel more it than anything else, and it’s kind of stuck with me, so…

Later, that morphed into “Well… it’ll never go through anyway. People won’t vote for it.”

And then the conversation really started, and it interested me, a lot.

– Genuinely think it’s all been said, and by better communicators than I. Here’s just my thought process:

I do not feel that I’m voting for the SNP. To me, I’m voting for a new throw of the dice. The first moment I remember thinking “Yes! This!” was when reading a status by my friend Alex Nuttgens, in which he quoted one of his friends, an unknown to me. I’ve tried to find it, to no avail, but I’ll paraphrase it, and would credit if I could.

Essentially, it said to imagine you were playing cards and that the hand you’re currently holding was pretty dismal; if someone offered you the chance to return your cards, shuffle the deck, and take a risk on a new hand…wouldn’t you? It was the first time it came home to me that this was even an option. Instead of working within and with what you’ve been dealt….you could try again.

It’s a risk, and must be thought about, absolutely. Everyone has to look at those cards individually and ask “Is this bad enough that I’m willing to take that risk?” For me, the answer is yes. It often feels odd that the question is that simple – I panic. What am I missing? What haven’t I thought about? It must be because I haven’t been that politically aware until recent years, right, I must be stupid, right? I keep reading. I keep asking myself the question. I keep answering it in the positive.

– Everyone can be a dick. I’ve voted in enough elections now that I fully expect it, from both sides. Being [insert whatever the hell you like here: a Native American, a nun, a single Mum, a local hero who rescues people from a burning building] doesn’t mean you can’t also be a dick.

One person/party/campaign/position can go above and beyond, of course, and that’s when it begins to affect me. I do think the Better Together campaign, and the current Westminster government have conducted themselves badly, to a degree, in certain instances, that has managed to surprise me. I’m not advocating voting against them as some sort of ‘punishment’, that ‘serves them right’; I’m saying that their behaviour gives me valuable information about them as leaders and decision makers. Info which leaves me with little confidence or belief in them as my representatives.

– It’s the polling day and I am, still, uneducated. To me, that’s the biggest sin. Not having a strong opinion, or sharing it. But choosing – cos it is effectively a choice, albeit with mitigating circumstances of moving home, finding a home, earning money, being unwell – to spend *that* bit of time doing *this* thing, rather than educating myself further.

I freely admit that I’ve read more things that easily strengthen and support my original opinion and leanings, than those that challenge it, but I definitely have actively sought out the opposing viewpoint, and considered it. I’m still learning how to do this political engagement thing, essentially, but I’m seeing that as a win, already, on a personal level. I haven’t felt this engaged and activated (that feels like the right word) since I huddled on a university bed with my new friend Claire Blenkinsop in 1996, and watched Labour sweep to power. On a national scale, I think this is also a win for the Scottish populace: 97%. That’s amazing.

I have, absolutely, relied on friends to educate me. I trust my friends, so of course their opinion and their thoughts count, and have been a great source of information for me. Whether that be a Yessay, or a link to articles, or a discussion following a post. Again, I’ve done my best to counter the Yes bubble I live in by actively seeking out some No voting friends’ posts, but not to the extent I would like to have done, or I feel I should have done.

– There’s significant pros and cons to both sides (or at least, that’s how I perceive it, with what I’ve read), again, it’s just how much weight you individually give each of those (everyone thinks their point of view is a no-brainer). Should Scotland vote Yes, I don’t see a rainbow, arcing over a sky from which candy falls, onto a yellow brick road where unicorns sing a cappella and we join hand in hand, laughing all the way to the pub. Just so we’re clear*. I’m going with what my heart and my head think is the better option, for the country I call home (see below).

– I’m fortunate that I really haven’t seen or experienced any of the negativity, or the narkiness. I’m only aware of it in reverse, when a trend developed in my social media feeds of friends requesting that people remain civil and respectful. It surprised me. Not cos we shouldn’t do these things, but because it seems to be a reaction to something I can’t see, and I haven’t experienced (thankfully) any of what may have prompted that reaction. I’ve been inspired, to be honest, by the behaviour of the most politically engaged of my friends, who come from both sides of the debate. One couple I know – fairly newly formed, it’s true, but still – are casting different votes; a few years ago, one of them wasn’t even registered to vote. Now, he’s more engaged than ever. Another win, come what may.

– This whole thing has also been, for me, another strong example of how the internet gives us options. The BBC (aka Almighty God when I was growing up) claim Alex Salmond hasn’t answered a question….. millions view a YouTube video showing he gave a several minutes long answer. Iain MacWhirter put it well: “The internet has given anyone with a computer the ability to correlate, often in real time, what they are being told is going on with what is really going on.” I feel like the mainstream media has mostly been doing facepalms this entire journey, and I’ve also found myself really interested in this area as a sidebar. How people have engaged, how that’s been different in those that are physically present, and those that are thousands of miles away, how information self-filtering on an individual scale transforms into mass movement. I think that this situation will be a key and interesting case study in the future.

– I absolutely, for a while there, did begin to get sucked up into the emotional side, the heart swelling idea of independence, and worked to counter that, successfully, I think. But I do absolutely feel emotionally invested in Scotland, and in the decision.

I wish I was there. I’ve never had a home. Sometime in the last 18 years, whilst I was making other plans, Scotland became it. Edinburgh in particular, but the whole place crept up on me. Before I left earlier this year, I said more than once, that I was leaving so I could come back. Homesickness was a problem when I was younger and at boarding school, or leaving an old country for a new one, but I hadn’t felt it as an adult before. I’ve always formed strong connections with place as well as people, but without ever feeling they were mine, to have and to hold. When I did leave this May past, the difference to previous departures was marked, in many ways. One of which was that I realised that I didn’t experience the sensation of just changing one place for another. I experienced leaving my home. It was such a new feeling that it still kind of rubs against me, awkwardly, like a new coat. One you really love, but that hasn’t learnt quite what direction your hips swings in when you’re running for the bus.

– Finally, if I’m not too late, I encourage you to use your vote, whatever it is. If you really, really can’t decide, go down anyway, and see if standing there, talking to people, being in the queue, being faced with the stark boxes, prompts something. You never know what might do it. But you will only have this one chance to try.
*Everyone knows unicorns don’t exist.

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