The Sword that heals
I took a break and drove down to south to visit relatives this past week and was of course aware that Celtic’s first competitive match of the season was due to be played while I was there. Thus I found myself in O’Neill’s Bar in Cardiff where I watched a rusty looking Celtic do a professional job on a fairly mediocre home side. One of the great things about being a Celt is that you’ll find like-minded fans in every major city in the UK and can join them on match days to talk about all things Celtic. Some like me are visiting or passing through these towns while others have made them their home and took their love of Celtic with them. It was nice to see the hooped shirts in that bastion of Welsh rugby and nicer still to see Celtic win.
Being away from Scotland for a week or so meant I missed the ‘celebrations’ associated with the Orange Parade in my home city. I returned to see images of a woman being pushed and spat upon for trying to cross the road and it made for a sorry spectacle in the ‘best wee country in the world.’ Other images showed a band stop deliberately outside a catholic church in the Gorbals to batter out some ditty about the ‘Volunteers of the UVF coming down the road.’ This was no error, they knew they were outside a catholic church and they chose to stop there deliberately and play their tune as their followers danced around on the pavement, singing along.
Canon Tom White, the Priest spat on at last year’s ‘cultural’ event said of the events…
‘The Boyne match on Saturday 6th July 2019 was rerouted by the Loyal Orders but they still insisted on passing a Catholic Church, Blessed John Dun Scotus on Ballater St in the Gorbals. Despite meeting with the clergy from Blessed John Dun Scotus and giving assurance that the Church would be absolutely respected we witnessed yet another Church targeted by mob mentality with complete disregard for the conditions imposed upon their march by Police Scotland and Glasgow City Council. Bands ignored the condition of not playing music within 100 metres of the church with one band, Bridgeton No Surrender, actually stopping very close to the Church and continuously playing despite Police Scotland requesting that they stop. This was accompanied by their followers singing and dancing on the pavement in a mob like fashion.’
Canon White goes on to make a very valid point and one which the catholic community in Scotland has been making for a very long time…
‘This would certainly not be allowed if it targeted other minority communities such as Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus, Gypsy, Roma & Travellers or the LGBTQ+ communities and this is entirely appropriate. I am demanding no more than equality for the minority Catholic community.’
Of course the great get out clause for politicians, police and others with the powers to curtail this sorry spectacle is to describe it as ‘sectarianism.’ This catch-all term allows some to dismiss what is in reality ugly prejudice against the catholic community as if it is in some was a problem created by both sides equally. The knee jerk responses we see every year about catholic schools are as predictable as they are risible. They exist all over the world without this sort of nonsense rearing its ugly head. Indeed England has over 2000 Catholic school with 10% of the school aged population attending them with no real bigotry problem. Make no mistake about it; this hatred is passed down the generations from father to son and is not in any way, shape or form learned in school.
If it is to have any future or any say in the public life of Scotland then the Orange Order needs to slay the dragon it created and not try to suggest that a few drunken hangers on are the root of the trouble. It is their bands and members who assault members of the public, play tunes with lyrics about being ‘up to their knees in Fenian blood’ or inviting their fellow Scots to leave the country with the words; ‘The famine is over, why don’t you go home.’ It is the Order which creates the space and the context where some think this is acceptable behaviour. If they really are the benign, Christian group they claim to be then they must surely act to end this yearly embarrassment to themselves and the faith they claim to be upholding. The hatred which swirls around their parades like a bad smell is the polar opposite of what the carpenter from Nazareth taught his followers.
As for our politicians, we seem to lack any with the balls to tackle this problem. It remains an act of cowardice and hypocrisy to allow this poison to be displayed on our streets every year. As Canon White suggests; if this was aimed at Jews, Muslims or other minority groups the jail cells would be full.
I love Scotland; it is a country full of good, decent people who care for their fellow citizens and I want it to become an even better land, a place where open displays of naked hatred are not only frowned upon but challenged by those we elect to represent us. I’m always uncomfortable with the curtailing or banning of demonstrations in a democratic society but the right to demonstrate and the right to freedom of expression must always be balanced against the common good. We are free to believe what we want to believe but we are not free to intimidate, threaten and insult those we dislike.
There is a school of thought that suggests a more violent reaction to these displays would force the authorities to act but that would play right into the hands of the haters who would portray themselves as victims. The dignified silence and unequivocally non-violent approach of the people who protest outside catholic churches is by far the best way to show the behaviour of the bigots in the worst possible light. Martin Luther King knew this and achieved far more through passive resistance than he ever could have by advocating violence. He once said…
‘Non-violence is a powerful and just weapon which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals.’
I firmly believe that the vast majority of Scots are embarrassed by this yearly exhibition of triumphalism and bigotry which goes against the values our country holds dear. The mace, which was created for the re-opening of the Scottish Parliament twenty years ago, is engraved with the words; ‘Wisdom, Justice, Compassion and integrity.’ Isn’t it about time we lived up to those values?