Ignatieff also raises that old canard about forcing apart families and destroying identity, “For the breaking apart does not merely shatter a political union, it forces apart the shared identities that people like me carry in their souls.” Ignatieff’s sense of his identity is clearly an important thing. Of course the reality in Scotland is that many people already operate with multiple identities. There are those who identify as Scottish or British or both. Whatever the result of the referendum this will remain unchanged. People may feel different after 18th September, but their right to identify as exclusively British or Scottish will not change, and nor in the short term will their right to a passport. My daughter in London will not become foreign to me and I resent his implication that she will.
More interestingly for the demolition of Ignatieff’s canard, there are up to a million people in Scotland who identify as Irish, or Scottish and Irish, or of Irish heritage. And that is before we start discussing the Polish-Scots, Asian-Scots and English-Scots who have contributed so powerfully to the diverse grassroots movement for a Yes vote.
And then, predictably, Ignatieff reaches for the ethnic cleansing smear: “the same was true in the former Yugoslavia, where in the 1990s women with Croatian names and Serbian husbands used to ask me with tears in their eyes why the nationalists were forcing them to choose between parts of their being.” One has to ask if this does not go beyond ignorance. This is a deliberate denigration of those who do not agree with him. It is the equivalent of saying that all British or Canadian nationalists are brutal and racist imperialists or inextricably linked to the bloody centralism of Stalin. In his peroration he writes:
“This is the moral sin of separatism. Separatist politicians, desiring to be presidents or prime ministers of little countries, force their fellow citizens to make choices that they should not have to make between identities that they have combined, each in their own unique way, and now watch being ripped apart – one portion of themselves flung on one side of a border, a damaged remnant on the other. If Scotland does secede, there will be many torn souls the day after.”
Lets ignore the contempt of “little countries.” For this self-proclaimed human rights advocate and democrat those who are part of Scotland’s peaceful, diverse and democratic movement for self-determination are immoral sinners. The vast array of people campaigning across Scotland for a Yes vote are to Ignatieff’s mind nothing but the dupes of politicians lusting for power.
There are many who support a No vote on the 18th of September who do so with great integrity. I absolutely defend and respect their right to make their case, even when I disagree with how they do it. But it was sad to see how many many unionists expressed glee at Ignatieff’s ignorant and contemptuous diatribe.