Charlottesville is an event that is based in a tragic American history of racism and discrimination against minorities which has long blighted the Land of the Free. For too long Free meant male, middle class and white, and there are still powerful and violent groups in the USA who are determined to ensure that the only freedom that matters is the freedom to discriminate, the freedom to hate, the freedom to oppress. Those groups were manifesting in all their ugly hatefulness in Charlottesville, and the reaction of the American president was to equate the practitioners of hate with those who opposed them. Democrats and Republicans both have condemned his moral cowardice. Trump’s racist mask has slipped and Americans across the political spectrum have denounced him for it. Trump said after he was elected that he intended to unite the American people, and now he’s done exactly that, just not in the way he planned.
In Scotland we look askance on an American president who is incapable of making an unequivocal denunciation of Nazis. The so-called Alt-Right protesters in Charlottesville aren’t merely hyperbolic Nazis, they’re not just metaphorical Nazis. They’re you’re actual nasty Nazis. They’re overtly racist, openly anti-Semitic, proudly homophobic, aggressively misogynistic. Our politicians, we like to think, are better than an American president who draws a moral equivalence between Nazis and people who protest against Nazis. And by and large, and to their credit, they are.
Ruth Davidson has rightly condemned Donald Trump for drawing a moral equivalence between Nazis and people who protest against Nazis. On Tuesday evening she tweeted “The President of the United States has just turned his face to the world to defend Nazis, fascists and racists. For shame.” She deserves credit for that. It’s a far stronger and clearer condemnation that that which her boss managed. Theresa May avoided referring to Trump directly. I don’t often say this, but well done Ruth.
But, and it’s a big but, it’s safe to condemn an unpopular American president. Now show some proper leadership Ruth. Prove that you’re not just a self-publicist who is jumping on a popular bandwagon and condemn Scotland’s home grown bigots and extremists in equally strong terms. And I’m not talking here about independence supporters being rude on Twitter.
Ruth’s very keen to condemn independence supporters who misbehave. That’s easy when you’re the head of the most aggressively British nationalist of Scotland’s major political parties. Condemning bad behaviour amongst your opponents just counts as point scoring, not as leadership. Real leadership comes when you’re able to speak out against the nastiness that lurks under your own flegstone. Ruth is a whole lot less keen to say anything about extremist British nationalism even though the actual fascists, the racists, and the sectarian bigots are overwhelmingly on the red white and blue side of the Scottish constitutional debate. I’ve never even heard her condemn the British nationalist trolls who infest the comments section of the Scotsman. You’d think that would be easy.
More seriously, Ruth avoids condemning sectarian organisations. She has never overtly and unambiguously disassociated the Conservative party from the Orange Order and made a strong and unequivocal condemnation of the bigotry and discrimination which that organisation fosters. She says nothing about the Orange Order and the Protestant supremacism which so many members of her own party cheerfully dog-whistle to. Ruth says nothing about the slew of Tory candidates who were revealed to have connections to the far right or to sectarian organisations which espouse Scotland’s home grown racism, the racism of the anti-Irish variety.
From the perspective of a Scot from an Irish Catholic background, the Orange Order and the white supremacists of Charlottesville are creatures cut from the same racist cloth. They all march in paramilitary uniforms. They all have an ideology based in exclusion of sections of the community because of who they descend from. They all think that the only freedom that matters is the freedom to discriminate. Both of them claim that they’re only expressing their culture, and both have a culture of hate. Both have colours that don’t run, they just drip with hatred for those who aren’t like them.
The English born US talk show host John Oliver spoke about Trump this week and how Trump is lauded and applauded by the American far right. Referring to Trump’s refusal to make a clear denunciation of yer actual Nazis, John said that Nazis are like cats. If they like you it’s because you’re feeding them. We could say the exact same thing about Ruth Davidson and an Orange Order which adores her. Aren’t you upset Ruth, to be loved by a sectarian organisation?
Ruth Davidson isn’t a racist. She’s not a sectarian bigot. But she never clearly and unhesitatingly condemns those on her own side who are, and there are lots of them. If Ruth Davidson had the courage of her undoubted anti-racist convictions, she’d make the Orange Order hate her. You’re not a champion of anti-racism when you pick and choose amongst racists. And I’m not talking here about people who say things that some people find offensive. I’m talking here about people who actually put their offensiveness into practice.
Go on Ruth, prove to us all that you are as committed to anti-racism as we all want to believe you are – you can do it by explicitly stating that membership of the Orange Order is incompatible with membership of the Conservative party, and that support for the big drum bangers means exclusion from your party. Say that the Orange Order is what it really is, an an organisation founded in order to perpetuate and promote a racist ideology aimed against people of Irish Catholic origin. Crack down on the Tories who use social media to nudge nudge wink wink support the boys who march in their uniforms to the music of hate. And it would be nice if you could apologise for the historic role of the Conservatives in being complicit with sectarianism in Scotland as a means to protect the Union. Prove to us that the Conservatives in Scotland have a zero tolerance policy for sectarianism. Condemn it like you condemn Trump.
We all want a better Scotland, a peaceful and peaceable Scotland, an open, tolerant, and inclusive Scotland. That’s not going to happen when it’s only one side in this constitutional debate which is expected to be self-reflective and to examine its own sins. We need all Scotland’s politicians to have the moral authority to condemn an American president who draws a moral equivalence between Nazis and anti-Nazis. But that’s not going to happen unless those politicians also have the moral fibre to identify and condemn the equivalent evils that still blight Scotland and which infest their own party in the way that American bigots infest the US presidency.
The Wee Ginger Dug has got a new domain name, thanks to Indy Poster Boy, Colin Dunn @Zarkwan. http://www.indyposterboy.scot/ You can now access this blog simply by typing www.weegingerdug.scot into the address bar of your browser, the old address continues to function, the new one redirects to the blog. The advantage of the new address is that it’s a lot easier to remember if you want to include a link to the blog in leaflets, posters, or simply to tell a friend about it. Many thanks to Colin.
Wee Ginger Fundraiser
I’m doing a fundraiser this year to keep this blog going for another twelve month and to allow the dug and me to continue visiting local groups all across Scotland. You can donate via my crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo –
Or you can donate by making a payment directly into a special bank account I’ve set up for the purposes of this fundraiser, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at email@example.com and I will send the necessary information. Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.