All Under One Banner – Glasgow 16/09/17

“Standing in the middle of George Square, among thousands of Independence supporters, my connection with this man, this stranger, felt like a moment of realisation and clarity: We were both home. We had found our community, a community of kindness, openness, and hope for the future. “

Today’s All Under One Banner rally in Glasgow was my first time speaking to such a large crowd. Thousands gathered in support of independence, in support of everyone sharing this event, but still my nerves were wrecked wondering if people would understand me, if they would appreciate my words, and if I might encourage some to understand the part we all play together as EU Citizens and native Scots alike, in this campaign for independence.

With the whirlwind of wonderful speakers, rushing one after the other, I barely remembered the words I had just spoken as I left the stage to applause and cheers from the crowd. I squirmed my way out of the bustling backstage area, all the time analysing my own poor opinion of the 45% of my 2 minute speech I was able to squeeze in, before hurrying to a finish to keep the schedule moving.

Up on stage I was so focused I could hardly tell what the crowd thought of what I was saying. My nervous body just wanted my mum, and for once I knew she was near, having come all the way from Germany for today’s rally, and was waiting there in the crowd for me. As I made my way to my family, people touched my arm, saying “Well done!” and “You did great!” – These were the people I was there to reach out to, and so my nerves began to subside.

Once I reached my mum and the rest of our group there was big hugs and a great deal of love. “I can calm down now” I thought.

But on the periphery of my vision there was a small figure dressed in black, a blurry energy spike. I turned to see and was met by the big, expressive eyes of a slender man, about my height, dressed in a black jacket.

”Good speech!” he said quite coyly, in an English accent that I found really hard to place in the noise of the crowd. I could tell congratulating me was not the only reason he came to see me, so I said thank you and waited for him to continue.

He told me he is a veteran; that he served in Afghanistan. He had returned from duty to his home in Liverpool, suffering from combat stress and needing medical and mental health support. Sadly, he did not get the help he needed. 

Not quite knowing his full story, I told him to move to Scotland, that everyone is welcome here, that we all look after each other the best we can. I needn’t have bothered though, as he replied that he already moved here! He now lives in Scotland, and the reason for his move was to access to proper healthcare.

”I fought for this country and they cannot even give us what we need when we come back!?” he said.

I didn’t know what to say, really. My heart was physically hurting for him. His face tells dozens of simultaneous story lines, interwoven into an almost indescribable expression of firm, brave defiance fighting a deeply exhausting personal struggle.

”There are so many suicides and they don’t care! They needed help, there are so many people that I know…” he stopped there.

The expression on his face made my heart ache. Desperately trying to find appropriate words that can somehow help, I respond ” I don’t know what to say to you, other I do not feel pity for you, you don’t need pity, I just really feel for you, from the heart. You went to war and when you got home you realised your own war had just started and everyone else had fucked off”.

He looked at me, then at his busy, tense hands, then me again, so I continued: ”I understand this won’t leave you and go away, you’re stuck with this and, honestly, I can feel it, it’s breaking my heart for you right now. The only option here is to turn that past into something better going forward.”

He stood in front of me and I knew we understood each other, that we both know these human connections matter, especially when you’re going through the dark valley on your own, and have been for way too long. I asked him whether I could hug him, and without the usual distance between strangers we wrapped our arms firmly around each other, no hesitation. His shoulder blades started jumping underneath my hands and I held on.
“I know,” I whispered to him, “it’s not fair”.
”No, it’s really not.” I heard him say quietly over my shoulder.

Standing in the middle of George Square, among thousands of Independence supporters, my connection with this man, this stranger, felt like a moment of realisation and clarity: We were both home. We had found our community, a community of kindness, openness, and hope for the future. 

He’s a New Scot, like I am. He is a migrant, in fact, when he arrived he damn near could be considered a displaced person, seeking refuge. An Englishman and a German; we’re both EU citizens, both citizens of the world, we’ve both been through a lot. We’ve been ignored, discriminated against, mocked, marginalised and used as the cannon fodder in someone else’s war. And we’re both brave to still be here.

For the rest of my life, I will not remember today as the first I gave a speech in the name of Germans for Independence & EU citizens for an Independent Scotland. I will not remember the fluster of nerves, the roar of Yes Bikers, or the cheers of the crowd. Instead, I’ll always remember that one person, and the connection of our paths, on the road to independence. 

And if he’s reading this: I never asked your name, but I hope you get in touch.
Let’s have a coffee, or share a meal. We’re friends already.

4 thoughts on “All Under One Banner – Glasgow 16/09/17

  • September 17, 2017 at 5:03 pm

    what an inspiring post. I am so glad you are both here in my country, now your country. makes me feel proud to know Scotland is not like Westminster and we look after our people. as long as folk that come to Scotland to live, make it their home and do not abuse it , we welcome all.

  • September 17, 2017 at 7:44 pm

    What a lovely blog, my son went to Afghanistan, he never talks about his 2 tours but outwardly our brave soldiers try and get on with life but inwardly, what they experienced, what they saw, what they felt, the men/women that were lost, badly injured deserved the absolute best of treatment by the UKGovernment. Scotland wants to be one of the peacekeeping nations, we want to preserve our brave soldiers so they can have a life free of the wicked wars started by Governments. I’m so glad both you and this brave soldier, who I hope continues to get the support and help and finds he is home, home is where love and support and friendships are built on and those of us in Yes, we don’t just fight our own battles to give ourselves the freedom from such Governments that live under the cruel Ideology that harms so many of the very people of this island. That is not the kind of Government we deserve, we thankfully have the Government in Scotland that has the compassion and the want to do its best by Scotland and its people. I hope the soldier will join the movement because this is a journey for all of us to live in a country that is fair and decent where we can join the small countries who don’t have leaders that drag us into these brutal wars that kill and maim physically and mentally not only our troops but the innocent men.women and children of these countries.
    I lost my dear Dad many years ago, he’d have been 97 this year and had he been still alive, he would be experiencing what all our EU adopted Scots are going through because of Brexit, being from another country and still a citizen of that country, he was a proud German, loved Germany but fell in love with Scotland and married a Scottish lass back in the 1950s. We are part of the family of Europe, Scotland has been for many centuries, before and after Act of Union. We have one enemy and that is not the EU but Westminster Tories.
    If the guy gets in touch, give him a big hug from me too xx

  • September 21, 2017 at 2:47 pm

    I have a work colleague who is German. She voted No in the independence referendum, and the only time I ever heard her speak about the subject was when she spoke sneeringly about having seen what happens when states break up and Scotland would be in a terrible position as it needs subsidy from England to survive. I tried to tell her that wasn’t true but she just plastered a superior, knowing sneer on her face and shook her head. I let someone else change the subject.

    I wish she could be brought to understand the truth of the situation but I think her mind is too firmly closed. I haven’t heard what she thinks about Brexit but from other things she’s said I suspect she doesn’t care much as she’ll just look for a job somewhere else and leave if things get sticky for her here immigration-wise.

    Oh well, can’t win them all. I know some Scottish colleagues who were outraged that she voted No when she feels no real connection to Scotland and is just here to work until she feels like going somewhere else, and has such a patronising and false view of the country, but she had a right to vote and she used it.

    • September 24, 2017 at 10:07 am

      We have seen a few similar comments from EU27 individuals regarding the break up of states. While UK nationals and Scottish residents may have little personal experience of this type of event, we cannot simply defer to others’ experience. As Indy campaigners it is our role to explain that what we hope for Scotland, and what drives the desire for independence is not the same as what drove many “separatist” movements elsewhere in Europe or indeed around the world.

      Perhaps you could suggest your colleague look into our group, or engage with other EU nationals who are campaigning for Scottish independence.
      I would like to say though, that while you believe she voted “NO” with “no real connection to Scotland”, you are perhaps ignoring the huge fear campaign targeted at EU nationals during IndyRef 2014. We had Better Together campaigners on our doorsteps tell us that Scotland would be instantly out of the EU, and without that connection, as non Scots we would have to return to our countries of origin or face deportation.
      We were told our pensions would not be payable as we were non-citizens. Basically a similar vein of lies that other “NO” voters believed too, but directed at our own vulnerabilities. So please, try to understand that her voting “NO” possibly has nothing to do with her being German, or any other nationality, and everything to do with the power of a very deceitful Unionist campaign.

      Less than 50% of EU nationals eligible to vote in 2014 were even registered, and while no clear statistics are available on how many actually voted, we understand it possible that less than 50% of those registered actually voted. This is why EU nationals are hugely important in the renewed campaign for Scottish independence. We have A LOT to lose in Brexit Britain. Our fellow EU nationals resident in Scotland are waking up to the differences in tone and action from Holyrood and Westminster. We must harness this, engage with EU nationals, ensure they register to vote and that they understand the sentiment of the independence movement.

      There is no “status quo” anymore. In 2014 that’s what people were voting for; “things are ok as they are” and “I don’t want change”.
      Brexit is the possibly the biggest political and social change that anyone under 45 years old in Scotland and the UK will have experienced in their lifetime. There is no avoiding it – we all need to face up to that fact and it needs to be a key argument in the renewed case for independence.

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