Aberdeenshire Isn’t A Lost Cause – It Needs Us More Than Ever

This is the full version of the letter which was (for obvious reasons) edited down for publication in The National.

 

In the days after the election, the sea of blue which has engulfed most of the North East of Scotland, leaving only a tiny scrap of yellow in the heart of Aberdeen, confounded commentators and politicians alike. I spent a lot of time on Twitter and Facebook, trying to explain to people that Aberdeenshire, and the various constituencies which cover it, can’t be easily reduced to single driving factors.

Most of politics can’t, much as those of us who comment on it might wish it, and much as we might sometimes act like the broad strokes are the truth. However, Tommy Sheppard’s sweeping dismissal of the entire region as lost to Conservatism forever because of one bad election has raised the hackles of pretty much everyone, especially those of us who work so hard to reach people in some of the most complicated and disjointed constituencies in the country. I agree with many of his points about the SNP needing to make the decision to commit to the left-wing, but in making such broad statements he has perfectly exemplified the most common of all the criticisms of the Scottish Government we hear up here: that the Central Belt is all that counts, and we are expendable.

It’s not true, and it’s never been true, but we fight a long, uphill battle to demonstrate that to people. Key figures in the SNP voicing such dismissal makes our work that much harder. So what’s the truth of Aberdeenshire?  I’ll tell you what I can, from my experiences of growing up and living here almost all my life.

I grew up in Aboyne, a small village (or it was, then) on Royal Deeside. While journalists complained about lack of 4G coverage on Theresa May’s recent visit to Crathes, those of us who grew up here knew exactly why that ‘cabin in a random forest’ had been chosen. In 2014, I visited a small festival in Banchory (the nearest major settlement to Crathes) a few weeks before the referendum. A chainsaw carver was positioned in one corner of Banchory’s park, and when she was finished, a large wooden ‘No’ logo was the artwork. The ferret which won the ferret racing was called ‘Better Together’. Even as small Scottish towns go, Banchory is odd. Still, we’ve got a hardy group of campaigners, who don’t let that stop them from chapping doors and handing out leaflets, and in the 2015 General Election Deeside went yellow. It was a surprise to many of us, because the Liberal Democrat shade of yellow was usually more popular, but it’s a testament to the hard work of the campaigners, councillors and MSPs who served their communities well.

no

I was raised Tory, rejected it at 19, and floated between the Lib Dems and Labour for a while because I had a deep distrust of the SNP. I had been told my whole life that they were fantasists who believed that money grew on trees (even then, the ‘magic money tree’ Tory talking point), who didn’t care about anywhere north of Stirling. I was in my 30s before, pressed by my brother, I thought to research it and see if I was right. I wasn’t, and I went through the six-month process of unpicking all my assumptions about politics in Scotland and revising them based on evidence. The distrust ran deep, though, where I grew up, among the people I knew. I made the same mistake the Tommy Sheppards of the country do: assuming that any one pocket is representative of Aberdeenshire.

This is the real truth of Aberdeenshire: it’s an idyllic place, where extraordinary wealth holds sway through landowners and oil executives.  There is also deep deprivation, but it is mostly hidden from view. In most of Aberdeenshire, the deprivation doesn’t look like the estates of Glasgow or the smoking tomb of Grenfell Tower. It looks like a cottage on a wealthy landowner’s estate where the windows are single-glazed and the people inside haven’t had a working shower for a year, but where the rent is just low enough that they can’t afford to move somewhere more habitable, and they daren’t risk pushing for what they’re entitled to in case the laird decides to up the rent without warning. It looks like people who can just about get to work and back, but the next MOT will leave them without transport, because they live miles from the nearest public transport route, and without their car they’ll lose their job. One in ten people receiving out-of-work benefits are sanctioned in Aberdeenshire, the highest rate in all of Scotland. The links to poor infrastructure and isolation are pretty clear to anyone who knows the area. Yet the people who are struggling to feed their families or buy shoes for their kids will go completely unnoticed by the majority of the people living in that area – it doesn’t look like poverty, not how we imagine it, though the results are the same.

 

The oil crash has left tens of thousands of people out of work, and has resulted in unexpected knock-on effects. These unemployed people are not the Daily Mail’s idea of a scrounger on benefits, but they lived their lives using lines of credit based on their high-paying jobs. Negative equity leaves them trapped in homes they can no longer afford. Many have moved away, leasing out their homes to try to recoup some of the mortgage, but oil workers’ spouses are often teachers and nurses, and so the knock-on shortage of key public sector workers has further stretched resources. It’s hard to attract people to a city with such a high cost of living and relatively little to show for it – the thriving music scene of the 90s and early 00s is gone, and successive Labour/Tory coalitions have invested in high-cost corporate sectors rather than independent, community-based initiatives.  In the Shire, what were once rural farming villages became commuter towns, and now their aging populations are retiring to live with family elsewhere, and younger people cannot afford the homes they leave behind.

 

The SNP has done some amazing work in trying to ensure that people in Aberdeenshire have access to equitable services, but it’s hard to explain to people concerned about class sizes in Aboyne that schools in other parts of the country are concerned about the building falling down on them. It’s hard to explain that, when deciding where to prioritise funding for health services, places with high population concentration or where the most accidents happen are going to be the primary targets. It can feel like we’re left behind, especially as our villages empty out and our high streets fill with ‘vacant’ signs. That so many of the problems each individual constituency faces are issues of local governance, or result from deals made by governments in London decades ago, is a hard truth to deal with. It makes us sound like we’re making excuses, when really it’s just that many people don’t understand the different levels of government and what they cover.

So what separates us from other rural areas in Scotland?  There’s a particular worldview that’s very common in most areas around here. It crosses through coastal villages to farming towns to tourist traps. It’s not easily reducible to ‘pro-Union’ or ‘anti-EU’. People here believe that they’re the most rational people in the country. That they understand the hard decisions, and they see further than others do. They have a tendency towards believing that left-wing politics is naïve or dishonest, and yet their actions don’t bear this out. They think that the Central Belt is weak for getting all that money, but want some of it themselves. They laugh at the Americans who don’t acknowledge climate change and yet they fight any measures meant to mitigate it, like compulsory planting along floodplains or limits on maximum extraction, with all their might. They believe that their unionism and anti-EU sentiment is borne solely out of rationality, not emotion, patriotism or nationalism.

And yet, there is a fierce, radical thread running through the Shire. For all that, one of our campaigners recently met an elderly woman while canvassing who told him about her days burning the Union flag on the Castlegate in the 60s. Banff & Buchan, Angus and Moray have been SNP strongholds for decades, largely because of the fierce work our representatives have done for their constituents over and over again, in the face of mockery and hostility, getting the work done. There is blurry footage on Youtube from the 80s of our MPs taking Thatcher herself to task for ignoring Scotland. There is bitterness about the CFP, and the CAP, but there are also people who know that EU funding is what allows their livelihood to survive. We do great work in life sciences and technology development, which we should be investing in for all our futures. Our communities are less likely to be unionised than in the Central Belt, but they’re no less informed or committed to political action. The only real problem is that, in Aberdeen as in the Shire, the two versions of these areas do not interact on any wide level – they are parallel communities, occupying the same space but experiencing entirely different realities. In Aberdeen, it’s not uncommon to have the same street include low-quality social housing at one end and £400,000 houses at the other, but the people each end interacts with, the places they shop, the activities they pursue, all are separate.

 

Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire have been protected somewhat from the most vicious of the Thatcherite fallout because we mostly had fishing, farming and oil rather than key manufacturing and mining industries. The effects have been more subtle, more protracted, but just as real. They’re coming home to roost, and the Tory MPs now occupying the area will have to deal with them if they’re going to do something approximating their jobs. They’ll have to go to Westminster to talk about the sanctions regime, foodbank use, infrastructure, EU investment in sciences, ensuring that our fishers aren’t sacrificed by the Tory government again as they were in 1970, ensuring our area has what it needs to survive the transition from the oil boom to the more streamlined industry which will now go forward into an uncertain future. Or they’ll blame it all on the SNP, again.

 

Aberdeenshire is far from lost. The next five years are, in fact, vital to the kind of country we want to build. We are at a crossroads, and the paths we choose will determine whether or not the North-East will thrive. It’s more important than ever that we work to ensure that we have a say in the choices to be made, that we drive the discussions towards ensuring that people understand that we have responsibilities to each other and that the wealth masks a lot of struggles, that the luxuries of the wealthy should not come at the expense of the people going hungry less than a mile away.

 

We lost the seats in Aberdeenshire for a lot of reasons, but it’s not because the electorate are irredeemably Tory. We owe them better than to validate their belief that whether we’re ignored by London or Holyrood, it’s all the same.

 

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Independence Day – Let Freedom Ring?

So my feelings about the 4th of July are complex and shifting, and I tried to tweet about them but 140 characters just isn’t enough when discussing the concept of freedom at the genesis of this celebration.

Alongside my usual posts of the Frederick Douglass speech, and of Sojourner Truth, I just want to include this John Laurens quote:

“We Americans at least in the Southern Colonies, cannot contend with a good Grace, for Liberty, until we shall have enfranchised our Slaves.”

These days, it’s more popularly read as

‘We’ll never be free until we end slavery’

I have to wonder, on a day like this, if Laurens would ever have been successful in his plan and, if so, how differently the story of the United States would have played out. It’s unlikely, of course, because even in his short life he was met with desperate hostility for considering arming black people. But imagine.

Archaeologists are currently excavating Hemmings‘ room in Monticello. A major room, connected to the master suite, had ‘somehow’ gone unnoticed by generations of museum staff. If Laurens had been successful, if the US had been built on equality from the outset, could that have happened? Could the man who raped an enslaved woman so often that he installed her in an adjacent bedroom for easier access be lauded as a brilliant, bright Founding Father, rather than a shameful blot on the landscape?

Could Truth And Reconciliation ever happen in America? Between the original population of the land and the people who slaughtered them? Between the white US population and the people who are still, hundreds of years later, being lynched with impunity?

I work to make this country I live in a decent one. We’re not there yet. We are closer than we were a decade ago, but we’ve still a long way to go. Part of that is owning the dark parts of our history and present, recognising our role in maintaining these inequalities. I look over the ocean and wonder what our hoped-for freedom from Britain will bring, and if we can ensure that our new nation does not follow the same path.

Freedom is a nice idea, but none of us are free yet. While any of us are oppressed, freedom is a bitter joke at the expense of the marginalised and disenfranchised. The work goes on.

SNP – Where Do We Go From Here?

The elections are over, at least for now, and most of us are taking a well-earned breather. We won a clear majority in Scotland, with 35 MPs out of 59. It’s not the absolutely ludicrous result of 2015, but that was never going to be, could never be replicated. 95% of the MPs available was a fantastic, beautiful, one-off result. Of course, you’d never know that we won if you listen to reports, because we certainly did lose a lot of fantastic representatives in the rebalancing, and that so many seats went blue (especially in my area) is particularly heartbreaking. There is no shortage of opinions on what went right, what went wrong, who’s to blame, who should resign, but I want to look at the bigger picture for a moment.

While I completely understand the desire of the SNP to be all things to all people, and to ensure a plurality of voices within the party, and to avoid the poor coverage that radical politics inevitably brings, I think it’s time we make our stand.

There are a few key realisations we have to make our peace with:

1 – Nothing we do will ever bring with it the blessing of the media. We gave baby boxes to tiny babies and we were still vilified for it. We ensured that most people are protected from the Bedroom Tax, and there’s not a peep in the press. We are never going to get what we feel our policies deserve from the media, so we have to stop pursuing that.

2 – Because nothing we do will ever be covered positively, we have to make our case direct to the people by providing the best possible services to the majority of people, and ensuring they know where they came from. So many people I speak to have no idea that life here is so radically different from life in England, they don’t know why we’ve made the decisions we have, and they don’t understand the different levels of government. We have to go direct to the people by having public information days in small, local communities, where people can come and ask questions or where we go door to door to find out if people have any issues.

3 – In order to do point number two, we will have to learn point number one. We’ve got to make our peace with being a left-wing party with broadly socialist ideals, and commit to them. Land reform. Public health. Sustainable energy. Sustainable cities. Taxes to pay for them, because we can’t talk about great services without the money for them. I know we don’t have control over most of our taxes, and I know that the ones we do have are a trap, but we have to demonstrate the savings people will see because of the better services provided.

Yes, we’ll be called control freaks, but we already are. Yes, we’ll be accused of ‘Mugabe-style land grabs’, but we already are. Yes, we’ll be accused of radical politics, but we already are. Yes, we’ll be accused of stealing from ordinary people, but we already are.

We already are accused of all these things and more, so we may as well actually use them to do some good. Stop being hesitant, stop waiting for approval. We’ve done incredible work with tuition fees and prescriptions, with the Scottish Welfare Fund, the Scottish Independent Living Fund, the Scottish Social Security System which is being built to be a great thing for our society. We have done great work, but we’ve got so much more to do.

Point four – we will not always be in government. Our time here is limited. We must use it to implement as much good as we can, as quickly as we can, because our time will come to an end as the cycles of politics move on. If we wait for the public to get on board, we’ll be waiting forever. People gave us a mandate, let’s use it. Use it for all its worth, and do great things.

Yes, the press will come after us, because we threaten their bosses. Yes, the landowners will come after us, because we threaten their monopoly of our wild places. Yes, the people will come after us because they’re told we do terrible things like feed children and ensure access to healthcare and protect disabled people from Westminster.

Yes, they’ll come. And hopefully, we’ll have made enough of a difference that when they do, we’ll have made Scotland a better nation for the people who live here, and we’ll have honoured the voters who put their faith in us. History is littered with parties who compromised their values in order to maintain power – let’s choose a completely different direction. Let’s do what we need to do to make Scotland better, to put systems in place to help people which aren’t easily dismantled.

Let them come. We’ll have done our job.

For Medical Professionals (Not for patients)

MAJOR TRIGGER WARNING FOR SUICIDAL IDEATION, MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS. NOT INTENDED FOR PATIENTS. 

If you are treating a patient who is in crisis because of the election result, please do not dismiss their fears or reaction as a persecution complex or as over-dramatic. Disabled people affected by this are not sad because their candidate lost; they’re scared because the last decade has been increasingly harmful and the result means five more years of that. Please see this post for the research and other evidence of why disabled people are justified in feeling hopeless and afraid.

They are probably in immediate crisis if you are treating them, so please do not minimise or dismiss their fears. It might seem confusing or unimportant to people not affected, but these are valid concerns based on evidence and experience, and your patient had been hoping for an outcome which would have reversed many of the harmful aspects of the system they rely on.

However, as you’ll know, this is not the time to justify their suicidal thoughts or feelings. It’s important that they know that they’re not alone, that a lot of people are involved in fighting the system and that their death would not ‘send a message’. To be blunt, there have been hundreds of suicides, and none of them have resulted in a change in policy, so if the person expresses the idea that their death would ‘show them’, please gently explain that it wouldn’t. The best way to resist them is by surviving.

Thank you for your care and compassion in these times of crisis.

The Disability Democide: The Masterlist of Citations

Many people have asked me for an easy to reference list of the evidence for the democide of disabled people in the UK. I am going to update it over time, because it is too much for my mental health to do it all in one go, but here are the key studies and judgements, and where possible, the original research. If I have linked a news article, it’s because it has important clarifying information and quotes.

Deaths

Oxford University research linking 30,000 excess deaths in 2015 alone to cuts in Health and Social Care

“After ruling out data errors, cold weather and flu as main causes for the spike, the researchers found that NHS performance data revealed clear evidence of health system failures. Almost all targets were missed including ambulance call-out times and A&E waiting times, despite unexceptional A&E attendances compared to the same month in previous years. Staff absence rates rose and more posts remained empty as staff had not been appointed.

The researchers say that there are already worrying signs of an increase in mortality in 2016. Without urgent intervention, they say, there must be concern that this trend will continue.

Liverpool and Oxford University research on increased suicide and mental ill health. Although direct causal link couldn’t be established because of the nature of the data, experts agree that the conclusions are robust.

“In findings that could be hugely damaging for the Government’s welfare reform agenda, experts from the universities of Liverpool and Oxford said that up to 590 additional suicides, 279,000 cases of mental ill health and 725,000 more prescriptions for antidepressants between 2010 and 2013 were associated with the introduction of the more stringent Work Capability Assessment (WCA).”

Iain Duncan Smith’s tougher fit-to-work tests ‘coincide with 590 additional suicides’

Death Has Become Part of the Benefits System

Original research link: ‘First, do no harm’: are disability assessments associated with adverse trends in mental health? A longitudinal ecological study

Calum’s List – a list of confirmed suicides or deaths caused by exacerbation of condition due to stress, with links to reports from press and coroners. This small set were gathered by family contacting the site owners to ask for their loved ones to be included.

Cradle2Grave – list of some of the dead

Austerity and old-age mortality in England: a longitudinal cross-local area analysis, 2007–2013

Mental Health Damage and Risk of Self-Harm and Suicide

Napier and Heriot-Watt Universities research finding ‘almost universal’ mental health damage from the assessment process for ESA, often permanent, sometimes catastrophic: Mental Health and Unemployment in Scotland

Universities of Bristol, Manchester and Oxford: Understanding vulnerability to self-harm in times of economic hardship and austerity: a qualitative study

Inequalities in mental health and well-being in a time of austerity: Baseline findings from the Stockton-on-Tees cohort study

Suicides of benefit claimants reveal DWP flaws, says inquiry

Government admits failing to record actions after benefit suicide inquiries

Oxfordshire Mind has been awarded a six-figure sum from the Big Lottery fund to enable the service to expand to specifically cope with the fallout from the government’s welfare reform programme. The BBMH hotline has received 20% more calls over the past 18 months from people anxious about benefit changes.

Benefit cuts explicitly linked to mental health problems

 

UN Investigation and Evidence

Judgement document from the UN

BBC Article on the Judgement: UN: ‘Grave’ disability rights violations under UK reforms

DPAC’s summary of the key findings, comprehensive and vital

Reports from Disability Rights UK: Disabled people tell UN committee that UK is failing on international rights convention

 

Changes to PIP/ESA and the Processes of Assessment

Nearly half of PIP reviews saw award cut, according to unpublished DWP figures

Statements submitted to MPs have provided further evidence of widespread dishonesty among healthcare professionals who carry out disability benefit assessments, but their inquiry has had to be abandoned because of the prime minister’s decision to call a general election.

Election forces MPs to abandon PIP inquiry, but evidence backs up dishonesty claims

Appalled disabled activists have warned the British Medical Association (BMA) that it will be “complicit” in the future deaths of patients, after the doctors’ union refused to speak out about “very dangerous” new benefit rules affecting severely-ill claimants.

BMA ‘will be complicit in future deaths’, after silence on ‘fit note’ rules

Delays and disarray shatter lives of new disability claimants

Political Party Responses

‘Shabby’ Labour fails again on disability rights, after abstaining on PIP cuts vote

 

In Defence of Claire Heuchan’s Article – from a Scottish Nationalist

It’s been a strange few days. Bizarre attacks from the Labour conference and some money pages (who seem to believe that the Pound plunging is to do with a vague possibility of Indyref2 rather than the actual statements that people will begin to be deported from the UK within weeks, and Freedom of Movement is over), and we’re a bit raw. However, I think that the current target of ire doesn’t deserve what has headed her way.

Unfortunately, by now, I think that Claire Heuchan has probably had every dire belief about Scottish nationalists confirmed by the extremist wing of Twitter, who cannot find it in themselves to respond thoughtfully to any perceived slight, real or conspiracy theory. I fear that even the more measured among us will respond with hurt and anger to her piece, rather than looking at it for what it is.

For full disclosure, I think there are certain key aspects that she has wrong. I’ll get to them, but first I want to say this:

Racism in Scotland still has to be among our top priorities – especially countering the ubiquitous type of racism borne out of ignorance and a lack of understanding of structural privilege. Most people still labour under the illusion that we are not an inherently racist society because most of us don’t know anyone who would ever use the n-word or other such racial slurs. So I fully back her assertions that we (as all progressive white people) can be self-congratulatory because we don’t know the extent of our own biases. I just don’t think that has anything to do with civic nationalism – I think it’s entirely to do with white people who haven’t learned about structural racism and inherent bias. That takes time. But I am almost entirely certain that, while the UK slides backwards towards glorying in the Empire, the Scottish nationalist movement I’ve been part of for the last few years will continue to try to be better than it was yesterday. Not everyone, and not always, and we’ll mess up a bunch of times on the way, but we are trying.
 
Of course, I’m also sadly certain that the writer will now be faced with some of the worst people on our side, and so it’s unlikely that she will see this side of it. Yes, unionist tweeters are just as horrific, but that doesn’t in any way make our lot doing it ok. She is a black woman who has experienced racism in Scotland. If we really want to be better, it’s up to us to run interference between her and the people who will react to her article with slurs and vitriol. That’s where I’ve been, trying to counter the people leading charges against the Guardian and Ms. Heuchan herself. I understand the frustration people have with the continual misrepresentation of civic nationalism as analogous to ethnic nationalism, but if we truly want to see the Scotland we strive for, we should be listening to the BME members of our communities who speak up about racism in Scotland, in whatever form. We might disagree with some of her conclusions, but we should disagree with them after actually considering them and checking that we’re not rejecting a useful insight out of hand because of our own biases.
As for where I disagree or want to give additional context:

Scotland exists in a bizarre overlap; we are both colonised and coloniser. Our culture, history and languages were crushed and erased until there was only the barest few stereotypes surviving, and they were defanged and stripped of political meaning. It is only in the last couple of decades that the long centuries of people trying to keep the shreds of our identity together have been vindicated in any way, by a restoration of our history and the recognition of our languages. But all this effort is met with resistance and the cry that to teach Scottish history in Scotland instead of exclusively English history is ‘the politics of grievance’, as if there is no political element to learning the history of feudalism and kings and 1066 et al, but spending a day or so on the Clearances or the clan system or the Convenanters is ‘Salmond’s attempts at brainwashing children to hate England’ (a quote from a person I met while campaigning for the Referendum).

 
But yes, we have erased our history of slave-owning and union-busting and racism, and our part in the Empire. It could be argued that, by the time those things were common in Scotland, we were entirely the Union’s, and so our erasure matches the erasure of the crimes of the Empire et al from the general education of British people. But yes, we absolutely do need to face the fact that Empire wasn’t only the tool of England and that we have slavers’ blood in our veins too. It was deeply complicated, with forced migrations from Scotland, but it happened.
 
And we are no idyllic, racism-free society. I don’t know many people who would claim that, but I know there are plenty of racists in our country, and that our institutions are still inherently racist at their heart, just as they are also still misogynist. Society itself is still racist. We are not immune from that. There are vast swathes of people across the world who believe that being the victim of one type of oppression means they cannot be complicit in the oppression of other people. See: transphobic gay men, disabled people who believe immigrants are why our services are being cut, white feminists who think we understand the totality of the experience of sexism. This is why intersectionality theory exists, and why it is so crucial to understanding the world. Scots who feel oppressed by the Westminster government are still fully capable of being part of the structural oppression of other marginalised groups, whether they are conscious of it or not. So when it’s pointed out, we have to listen, or we are lost.
 
But this is where I part ways with Ms Heuchan – exceptionalism isn’t the issue. We don’t believe we are naturally, inherently better than England. We do not believe that Scotland is a utopia of equality and diversity. Where the difference lies, and what makes the heart of civic nationalism beat, is the desire to be better than we have been. To do better. To be fairer, more open, more equal. If we were mired in exceptionalism, we would believe that the work was already done, that we have no need of investigation or policy to address these issues, because we would believe ourselves to already be free and meritocratic. But we know we are not.
 
We know that we are rebuilding our identity from the shreds of history which survived, and we are trying to build it to be better than it was, than it is right now. We have made long strides away from our history of both colonisation and imperialism, but we bear the scars still. We don’t always succeed, but we try to look at our society straight on, and figure out what we can do better, which is why the Yes campaign had so many subgroups made up of people from different marginalised communities, and so many groups for people of different ethnic origins. We all worked together, and we try (not always successfully) to address our own biases when we organise. There are still too many people in Scotland who believe we already live in a meritocracy, but there are so many people in government and in our society who know that we don’t, and are trying to fix that.
 
So no, I don’t think there is an equivalence to make between racism and civic nationalism. I think her admittance that she doesn’t understand why we want independence from the Union while seeking to stay in the EU reveals how little she understands about why we want to leave the UK. We don’t want to be dragged backwards, away from the progress we’ve made. We may still have a long way to go, but I genuinely don’t understand how she could believe that we are not further on than England.
 
I wish that I could have this discussion with Ms Heuchan herself, but I think she’ll probably have had enough of us nationalists by now, and understandably so.  If I could, I would say to her – Thank you for your insight, and I hope that Scotland does continue to fight for equality and fairness.  I hope that we continue to look at ourselves to see where we can do better. I hope that we can teach our society to see its own biases and accept its own history, and from there accept responsibility for where we are today.

Civic nationalism is a double-edged sword. It means you get to be proud of what the country achieves because you have played a part in it, but it also means taking responsibility for the things which need to change, because you play a part in how things are right now.

I hope that some of the people reading this who might have reacted with anger might react with a little more nuance. I’m going back to Twitter to try to calm the flames a little, because it’s our responsibility to deal with the people on our own side.