Last week a noisy flock of low-flying geese passed over my house while I was in the garden. ‘How nice for you,’ I thought. ‘Leaving Brexit Britain. Hope they let you back in next Spring.’
How ridiculous. Of course the geese can return. They can go where they like, live harmoniously in their temporary accommodation, and be off to the next place without a thought. They belong where they choose to be. If they find the conditions of their present situation hostile, they can leave for another – no documents, no passport, no problem. I never thought I’d be so envious of geese.
The society I grew up in was deeply religious (I’m not), rabidly patriotic (which skeeves me out on so many levels), and rigidly structured (nope). I was made to stand and pledge allegiance to a flag every morning in school. I also had to say grace before I was allowed to eat lunch. Boys were allowed to chase me on the playground, but I wasn’t allowed to chase back because that wasn’t what nice girls did. I spent the first 18 years of my life not understanding why everyone around me was weird, and also apparently delighted to be weird. Why did I feel so oppressed and miserable when they all seemed happy?
My epiphany came when I left the US for Europe in my late teens. Getting out of Alabama, I felt I was finally able to fill my lungs to full capacity for the first time. I no longer had to pretend to care about college football rivalries, or suffer wearing clothes I hated because it was too hot to wear anything else. I didn’t need to bow my head, place my hand over my heart, or stand for a song I didn’t want to sing. I didn’t have to conform to silly rules just because I’m female. And I didn’t have to pretend to care about a landmass that was nothing more to me than dirt under my feet. I have never understood why I should be proud of the fact I was born in a certain place. It’s not something I could control and, if I could, I wouldn’t have chosen it anyway.
I was born into the wrong nationality. Which leads me to the question: what if we could choose our nationality based on the values we hold rather than the place in which we happened to be born? If that were the case, I wouldn’t be an American, and after the events of the last couple of years, I wouldn’t be British either. I don’t think a lot of people would.
Living where I do now, I find that most of the people around me hold values similar to mine. They’re not interested in reviving some sepia-tinted idea of a past that never existed. They want to move toward a more equal society where no one goes hungry and everyone has a place to call home. Where people from other countries are welcomed and encouraged to contribute and enhance the culture. Where everyone can be educated, provided healthcare, and given an opportunity to thrive. Where every human is treated equally – and with dignity and compassion, regardless of their colour, race, religion, or gender.
So if I could choose, I’d be Scottish in an independent Scotland free to become one of the most progressive countries in the world. How lucky am I that I’ll have that opportunity soon?