When I was a kid, America was cool. It was cool, in the playground, to tell people that my mum had grown up in North Carolina and I had a sequinned baseball cap with stars and stripes on it which was my most prized possession. I never told people that my dad grew up in England from the age of nine. At home I wasn’t ashamed because it was just a fact, but it took a long time for me to admit that fact in public.
I think I have always worried about being illegitimate as a Scot. Long before I knew what illegitimate meant, long before any child should care about where they come from; about nationality or identity or belonging. But these things are somehow ingrained and difficult to get away from. Is this particularly true in Scotland? I don’t know – you only get one chance at growing up, one experience of that, and that’s where that happened for me.
Kids are mean. I remember kids with Engl-ish parents & Engl-ish accents being beaten up in the playground at primary school. I didn’t have an English accent: no one needed to know about my murky heritage.
Here is a family tree of the family that I have known during my almost twenty four years on this planet, and their accents.
The bits in orange are identifiers of mongrelness, I suppose. I’m proud of these bits. I believe in moving, adventuring, changing, accepting people. I also believe in resisting rules that say we should be one thing or the other: I struggle with yes and no, gay and straight, good and bad. They don’t always work for me, these binaries.
I’d be sad to lose the ability to use the word British. If you look at the above diagram, it explains well why I feel like it’s the most accurate word I can use to talk about where I am from, or what my nationality might be. This must be true for so many of us; I bet most people I know have far more complicated ‘accent-trees’ than this. And I know these things don’t really matter, but I want a non-specific word to describe who I am. A muddy word, an ambiguous word that doesn’t give too much away. That gives you an idea but that can still mean many things. I like the fact that we are never, even as the people who live here, very sure of the differences between countries and nations – what those words mean, whether Britain is the country I’m from or Scotland is. Are they both countries? I revel in this confusion because it leaves space for me to decide what I want to be, where I want to be. (Am I making any sense here?)
Last night I sat 14 people around the table in my dining room for a Clerke and Joy Indian feast, and as the night wore on, many beers and curries in, we began to check the European election results coming in. It became addictive, we became worried as UKIP rose through the ranks to claim their ‘earthquake’ of a result. I’ve always thought of earthquakes as a bad thing and feel no different today. Regarding the effect of this on Scotland – a yes vote seems surer than ever today and I feel, still, conflicted about this.
Part of me thinks, fuck it. Why wouldn’t I want Scotland to have a chance to do something different from all this because it’s so shit it makes me angry and lost and disempowered. I can’t blame anyone for wanting out. I can’t blame them at all. I want out. I also want more democracy and I think the referendum offers that, whatever the outcome – a binary vote does give people power, and god knows we need some reassurance that we can implement change. Now more than ever. But another part of me doesn’t want the solution to be another border, and doesn’t want to lose my mongrel identity. Doesn’t want Scotland to run away (but why should they stay?) When I was up in Scotland a few people dismissed these trepidations as romantic, and I never know if I’m being stupid and selfish or if they matter. It hurt though, to be brushed aside as romantic. They matter to me, but have little bearing on the future of Scotland. (that’s probably why I don’t get a vote – living in England makes me more concerned about independence’s potential personal effect on me than perhaps, as it should, on the country/nation/place/whatever). But there is, undeniably, a huge emotional stake in this vote.
I don’t know what to think.
On a side note: all of the yes campaigners on my facebook feed seem to have lost their sense of humour and that worries me too. (Please don’t try to persuade me, either – I’m happy to muse for the moment and it’s not worth the effort because I can’t vote.)
It’s undeniably an exciting time. I don’t quite know how I managed to go from sparkly hats to the referendum by way of accents, but I think these are all linked somehow.
I’m just trying to keep writing things so that hopefully I have something to put in the show.
Congratulations if you
got this far. I might not even go back through and edit this. Bad ass.
correction: my dad's family moved south in 1965, not 1967
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