When I was a teenager several members of my church got excited about the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua. This was a time when many politically progressive Christians hoped the rebels who overthrew the U.S.-backed dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza might have the opportunity to establish a government in Central America that was the embodiment of liberal values espoused by and shared by the American left.
During those years I watched as several members of my home church left for Nicaragua. They went to build houses and schools and to see first-hand what was happening in that small and war-torn nation.
My high school Spanish teacher, several of the folks who taught me in Sunday School, and my own brother were among their number, and when they returned I saw their pictures and listened to their stories with admiration and a longing to be a part of such a hopeful society as seemed to be unfolding along the shores of Lake Managua and in the highlands of Matagalpa.
Later, in my own travels through parts of Central America (though not Nicaragua) I met refugees who had been brutalized by the Sandinista army, and I became somewhat disillusioned with the Sandinistas; but I never really lost the hope and longing I felt prior to my disillusionment. Disconnected from the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua, the optimism flew above the transom of my life's ship like and albatross searching for dry land upon which to rest its weary wings.
Now, I confess that bird has landed in Scotland. In a few days the people of Scotland will vote in a referendum to decide if they should become a nation independent from the United Kingdom, and I have found myself following the movement for Scottish independence with the same hope the same longing that people in my home church once reserved for the Sandinistas in Nicaragua.
The Scottish independence movement is driven largely by a desire, on the part of Scots, to have a government free from the dominance of big business and financial interests that drive the politics of Westminster (much in the same way these same interests determine the decision-making in Washington). If Scotland wins its independence and is able to rid itself of the influence of unfettered capitalism, the Scottish people will have the opportunity to establish a government that is more democratic, more people oriented, and guided by a greater concern for the poor than the government currently calling the shots in Britain.
In addition, most of the folks who seek Scotland's independence from the United Kingdom are committed to removing British submarine-based (and U.S.-made) nuclear weapons from Scotland's waters, and while much of Scotland's economy, in the short term, will be based upon revenue from North Sea oil, long-term plans for Scotland's economy include the development of sustainable energy generation using wind and tide power.
This mixture of economic justice, nuclear disarmament and ecological concern appeals to me. There is, of course, no guarantee that hopes for a Scottish government based on progressive values will come to pass -- even if independence is won -- but the fact that so many people in Scotland are so eager to form a polity based upon the common good is inspiring.
And regardless of how the vote turns out, any one of us as an individual can follow the example of those striving for Scottish independence, for independence starts in the human soul. We can live lives free from the dominance of business interests. We can choose people over money. We can choose a spiritual independence that shakes off the bonds of a consumer driven culture, that sees value in a nuclear-free world, and that hopes to preserve the health of the earth.
I'll be watching this week's referendum with interest, and I do hope those supporting a "yes" vote pull off a victory; but regardless of what happens, Scotland already has helped me to be free.