On a recent trip to Scotland, I participated in a rally for Scottish independence…a Scotland independent of the United Kingdom. Although I strongly believe that outsiders should not be involved in local politics, I joined the march in support of my friends.
What I experienced was extraordinary.
The leaders of the Scottish independence movement were positive, upbeat and forward-thinking. Despite the fact that the people of Scotland have been underrepresented since the formation of the UK, there was no anger; no frustration on display. On the “telly,” there were reasoned discussions and debates. One evening, representatives of both sides debated the issues with facts and little emotion. The moderator interrupted on numerous occasions to ask a follow-up question or to challenge a viewpoint. Over the course of the debate, the viewers, and probably the participants, had a genuine opportunity to learn.
Now imagine something similar transpiring in the US.
Imagine if the so-called “Independent Republic of Texas” followed through on years of threats to secede from the US. Imagine the vitriol and anger. Imagine the rancor and misinformation that would dominate our media. Imagine the long list of talking points that would be “reported” by Fox News Channel, MSNBC and the rest of our mass media.
By the time the process was over, most of the rest of us would be ready to secede from each other.
In fact, we’re now experiencing incredibly high levels of vitriol over a much lesser issue…simple budget negotiations.
Now ask yourself, why? Are the citizens of Scotland and the UK really so very different from us? Why are Britons able to remain civil while debating issues of political import? Why can British reporters hold politicians accountable when our reporters can’t? Why are British elections held over a matter of weeks, while US elections are now perpetual? Why are millionaires, billionaires and corporations unable to secretly buy votes for British candidates, while they are allowed to own most US candidates and offices?
I don’t have the answers. But if we want this “grand experiment in democracy” to last, we better find some fast!