Following upon yesterday's report that parcel-bombs had been sent to persons associated with Celtic Football Club, it has been depressing to read today that a live bullet was mailed to Cardinal Keith O' Brien prior to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Scotland.
Scotland's political leaders repeated the civic pieties yesterday; what do they have to say in response to this, today?
One of the most powerful arguments advanced against Islamism is that while its atrocities are perpetrated only by a fanatical few, their actions might be cheered on in the shadows by millions. I hope I am keeping myself on the right side of Scotland's anti-sectarianism laws when I say that I sometimes feel the same way about violence directed against Catholics here, that while only a few people are directly responsible for it, their actions might not be as universally disapproved of as our political and intellectual classes like to think; that there might be a perhaps not insubstantial number of people here who, while they might shake their heads in disbelief at the thought of Paul McBride being blinded or Neil Lennon dismembered, wouldn't really lose too much sleep over it if it were ever to happen. Such people are our equivalent of those Arabs who danced in the street at the news of 9/11.
Our hateful attitudes to each other here are like a sewage leak in your basement; it smells and gets into everything. It permeates into public discourse. It permeates into the professions, into the minds and hearts of people who have supposedly been educated to a standard at which they might be expected to know better. It is no respecter of geography; some Scots outwith the west of Scotland seem to take a perverse pride in how their patch of the turf is remarkably free of such smelly attitudes, a posture which, for me, was blown to smithereens by hearing the most bigotedly anti-Catholic remark I've ever heard being made, in mixed company, in Aberdeen, by a now dead Aberdonian solicitor. There seems to be no escape from it. This seems to be the Scottish nation's manifest destiny.
The common or garden Scotch bluenose doesn't ever like being challenged, but the one thing they can never suffer is being thwarted, in anything, no matter how trivial; which is they should be challenged, or, even better, thwarted, as often as possible. My churchgoing Protestant friends appear to have as little time for the bluenoses as I have for those civically retarded Scottish Catholics of Irish extraction who still describe themselves as being 'Irish' over a century after their ancestors got off the boat at the Broomielaw. If it has done so already, then I issue my apologies in advance, but I believe that a statement from the Orange Order properly deploring this extremely serious threat against Cardinal O' Brien would be a sign of civic good faith, and an affirmation that its constituency has no truck with those who threaten one of the Queen's subjects in this way as he goes about his lawful business.
Unless my perceptions of it are greatly mistaken, the Orange Order seems to portray itself as a vehicle for the maintenance of what it perceives Protestant culture to be. I am no way qualified to comment on the validity of that proposition. It was founded in Northern Ireland. For what my opinion's worth, the export of historical Northern Ireland's particular vision of brotherly love, from whatever quarter, is the cultural equivalent of a contaminated blood transfusion.
As for the rest of us, Catholic and Protestant, we can do what we've always done. We can pray, together and apart, that the Scottish nation gain healing from this scab which some of our neighbours seem to feel an insatiable need to pick. In this course of action, we should not expect the support of either Celtic or Rangers. It is my opinion that those two huge, sophisticated private companies are perfectly aware that without this crap, they have nothing to sell, that nobody would be interested in them any more if it all went away overnight, and that without this hatred and division, they would have no point. In that respect, it's my belief that it can truly be said of those two - what was the expression?- 'giant vampire squids' latched on to the Scottish body politic that their real business is hate.
For all its fulminating, we should not expect any help from the Scottish media. If the predictions of those in the know are correct, the newspaper business has about thirty years of life left in it. As far as the Scottish press is concerned, sectarianism sells and draws ratings, so keep expecting to see it. Tom Nairn, the Scottish nationalist 'intellectual' (there are so few of them, you know), once claimed that Scotland would not be free until the last minister had been strangled with the last copy of the 'Sunday Post'. While it seems desperately clever - Nairn's apparent desperation to be seen as being desperately clever often shines from his prose like the Bell Rock light - it isn't really. When the last copy of the 'Sunday Post' is printed, and it goes into its grave, zombie-like, I hope that its last headline will tell of the end of sectarianism in Scotland. That is a future of freedom for the Scottish nation of a type which Tom Nairn cannot even dream of.
We should pray, each of us in his way, to the God of all our fathers for our land, our strange, wonderful wee land, and for all of us in it, that this hatred can be expunged from the hearts of our neighbours. I'm going to be 41 years old soon, I've lived with it all my life, and I'm tired of it. I want no part of it, I don't want it near me, and I don't want it near my boy. I suspect I'm not alone in this, yet it keeps encroaching upon our silent majority's consciousness like the stink of sewage in the basement. It's time for us, for all of us, to turn our backs on it.