There were three great political entities responsible for the evolution of the modern world: Rome, Great Britain and the United States. Of the three the second influenced the third, so it gets extra points.
Though there were no bullets or bombs involved, the world dodged a crisis last week when the good people of Scotland voted to stay united with England as part of the United Kingdom. (To the relief of Queen Elizabeth who urged her Scottish subjects only to “think very carefully about the future.”) A weakened Great Britain would be bad for global stability just as the planet would be a far different place, and perhaps speaking different languages, had the American Civil War split the nation.
I am a great admirer of the English. Sure, they built a global empire, but they did it during an age when the world needed direction—plus if they hadn’t someone else (perhaps less kind) would have. Most of the British Empire has retreated now, like the surf at low tide, but left planted in far-flung places are concepts of democracy, education, health care and individuality. The world’s most common form of government is the British style parliamentary system, practiced in big countries, including India and Australia, as well as on tiny islands. No country is the cause for as many national independence days, including our own, as England. Overlooked though is that the Union Jack was always lowered over a better place than when it was first raised.
England’s heroic defeat of the German Luftwaffe bombers during World War II has been described as the country’s finest hour—a celebration diminished by the sight of destroyed buildings and cavernous bomb craters in the streets of London. That hour though was part of England’s finest days, or perhaps years, as it alone defended Western Europe until getting help from the United States.
Some people think of England as being stuffy, but what creativity there is in a country that has given the world Winston Churchill and Mick Jagger; Sherlock Holmes and Sergeant Pepper.
Scotland loses none of its national identity by being part of Great Britain; just as California, Texas, Florida and Louisiana have their own image though they are part of a greater country.
When the votes were counted last week some pundits speculated that because there was a 45 percent vote in favor of independence that that might be a sign of separation in the future. Not necessarily. When 55 percent of the vote is cast against independence in a free election that is practically a landslide. If in a future generation another vote is taken, there is no reason to believe that independence sentiment will have expanded; indeed in what is increasingly becoming a world without boundaries, political distinctions may become less relevant as long as democracy prevails.
Tonight, the people of Scotland can sleep confident that they did think very carefully about the future. Their land is stronger, more robust and more secure now—and the Scots remain part of a great nation.
BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: Errol’s Laborde’s new book, “Mardi Gras: Chronicles of the New Orleans Carnival” (Pelican Publishing Company, 2013), has been released. It is now available at local bookstores and at book web sites.
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