I’ve been inspired by Abraham Lincoln, or at least by the screenwriter of the Spielberg movie. As he pushed for the 13th amendment making slavery unconstitutional, Lincoln was also offered a peace deal by the Confederacy that would end the civil war but perpetuate slavery in the southern states.
He wanted both but clung to the belief that ending slavery was the greater objective and if he had the courage – and the cunning – he could win through.
Confronting a rebellious congressman who wants abolition but says America is ‘entirely unready for emancipation’ as it has too many unanswered questions, the President tells him: ‘We’re unready for peace too, ain’t we? When it comes it will present us with conundrums and dangers greater than any we faced during the war, bloody as it’s been. We’ll have to extemporise and experiment with what it is, when it is.’
That’s my view of our independence – that whatever the questions and conundrums, we’ll have to face them. We will find a way – our way – to deal with them and we’ll find our own solutions, the ones that work for us. Whichever decision we make, we don’t escape the challenges of the future and there will be many of those in the coming years under the Union if there’s a No. But we won’t be able to withstand those so well because we won’t have the powers and flexibility.
It can sound like an escape route from hard choices like currency but it isn’t, it’s just plain fact. Everything is a choice and we should refuse to be frightened out of ours by bullies and blowhards. If there actually is a refusal to work pragmatically on any subject including currency, then we will find an alternative. Through national debate and negotiation we will decide for ourselves which option we prefer. That IS the power of independence.
Later when his own Republican colleagues are arguing for compromise to accept the peace deal and avoid confronting the slavery issue because it’s too difficult to contemplate and has too many consequences, Lincoln slams his hand down on the desk and silences them.
‘We’re stepped out on the world stage now – NOW, NOW – with the fate of human dignity in our hands. Blood’s been spilt to afford us this moment – NOW, NOW, NOW – you heckle about like pettifogging Tamany Hall hucksters. See what is before you! See the here and now, the only thing that accounts…’
It was the nation’s chance to settle the question for all time, he says. It wouldn’t just free millions of current slaves but save ‘millions of the unborn still to come’.
That’s what our campaign is about too. It is creating the beginnings from which to build a better future investing in our unborn still to come. And what Lincoln would call the two-bit hucksters wheedling about compromise and middle ways bereft of detail or credibility are the ones who can’t see that future and whose vision is restricted by self-serving myopia.
We are not slaves and we are not at war. But we are engaged in a noble cause that touches the heart of every world citizen. In every other country the idea of their nation and their identity within it is an emotional impulse for its citizens.
How small and contradictory it sounds for today’s American president and the Australian Prime Minister to chide another country for pursuing its own independence from London. You really do need an irony bypass not to gasp at their ignorance and naked self-interest. You only have to imagine them going home and telling their own people that independence was a mistake and powers were to be returned to Westminster. The only logical explanation for their view is that they don’t honour Scotland with the status of a real country and truly see us only as a region of another – the classic Britnat formulation.
The words attributed to Lincoln are also a reminder that our opponents are focussed on the pettifogging detail. Of course it will be important, but currency like EU membership and defence and pensions decisions are consequential on the big decision, the one that really matters. ‘We’ll have to extemporise and experiment with what it is, when it is.’ Afraid of your own future? Then vote No.
‘See what is before you! See the here and now, the only thing that accounts…’
The question isn’t about currency – it’s about independence, national dignity and self respect. It’s about taking to ourselves the powers to choose, to select our own route to create our own country in accordance with the wishes of the people, and Yes, to make our own mistakes. But also to share our own achievements and triumphs – just like everyone else.
Our stories may be very different but the core principles remain the same. Lincoln reached beyond the small-minded and the self-interested to grasp the big prize, one that endures today for millions of those who were the unborn still to come…the living proof that he was right. He refused to be corrupted by the political fix, the easy option. It is tempting at the time but Abraham Lincoln showed what belief in a cause can achieve when it is backed by iron will. September is about dispelling fear and finding the backbone that comes from belief in a just cause and, as Lincoln said, it can’t for some future date, it’s for NOW. This is our moment.