Isabel did read Italian; if she had any difficulty with La Repubblica, it was with understanding the complexities of Italian politics. But that, she suspected, was the case with everybody’s politics. And it was not just a linguistic difference; she could never understand how American politics worked. It appeared that the Americans went to the polls every four years to elect a President who had wide powers. But then, once he was in office, he might find himself unable to do any of the things he had promised to do because he was blocked by other politicians who could veto his legislation. What was the point, then, of having an election in the first place? Did people not resent the fact that they spoke on a subject and then nothing could be done about it? But politics had always seemed an impenetrable mystery to her in her youth. She remembered what her mother had once said to her about some American politician to whom they were distantly related. “I don’t greatly care for him,” she said. “Pork barrel.”
Isabel had thought, as a child, that this was a bit unkind. Presumably he could not help looking like a pork barrel. But then, much later, she had come to realise that this was how politics worked. The problem was, though, that politics might work, but government did not.
The gravel road in the picture below (and, for a time, in the header above) runs from Texas State Highway 80 just north of the town of Fentress to where it intersects with Farm-to-Market Road 20, about five miles to the northeast.
The sign at the intersection reads Political Road. The sign denotes Caldwell County’s approval, but the name existed about a zillion years before anyone thought about marking it.
And therein lies a tale. I relate it as it was told to me, but, in deference to the etiquette of small-town life, I omit names.
Once upon a time in the 1920s (or maybe the 1930s; I didn’t listen carefully enough), the formerly insignificant thoroughfare rose to prominence during a race for County Commissioner of the local precinct. The incumbent promised that, if elected, he would pave the road.
Hence, people in the area started calling it the Political Road, and the name stuck.
When I went to Fentress a couple of months ago, I drove the length of the Political Road. I expected to see it built up with new houses.
But there’s still not much out there.
I saw some cows resting beside a dying fire. That was a welcome sight. I love cows. I don’t see them often enough. They are superior to houses.
So that’s the story of the Political Road.
Except for one more thing: The incumbent County Commissioner lost the election.
It’s one p.m. Texas time. I’m in a coffee shop, procrastinating, and I can’t think of a better way to procrastinate than to googleScottish Referendum and check on how things are proceeding.
I thought the results might have already been announced, since Scotland is several hours ahead of us, but so far they haven’t. Further googling pulled up news that numbers will start trickling in about one a.m. Friday. The final result might be announced much later on Friday.
In Scotland, one a.m. is drawing nigh. I’d like to stay up to watch the exit polls, but getting a full night’s sleep at night is more important than watching coverage of a Scottish election, especially when I avoid most election coverage here in the U. S.
I read–or maybe heard on NPR–that if one votes Yes, he’s supposed to go directly to the Yes lady and report how he voted. It’s expected to be more accurate than exit polls.
If a large number of citizens vote like my father did, however, the Yes ladies could get it wrong. My father did not discuss his vote, either before or after an election. His political leanings were his business, and he didn’t even engage in political discussions. I know he discussed issues with my mother, but she was about the only one. I’m pretty sure he voted a straight Democratic ticket, but I can’t swear to it.
My mother was more of an Independent, at least in 1960. She preferred Richard Nixon for president, but she liked Lyndon Johnson for vice-president. That required her to vote for men from opposing political parties for the top two positions. She said she was going to split the ticket. At the age of nine, I imagined her taking a pair of scissors into the voting booth and cutting the ballot into two strips.
If enough voters had followed her lead, we could have ended up with Richard Nixon and LBJ governing the country together. How I’d love to have seen that partnership.
I just realized that the phrase split theticket still conjures up a vision of Mother holding her sewing scissors.
I guess it’s like Bringing in the Sheepand Jesus the Cross-Eyed Bear. And Up on the housetop, reindeer paws. No matter how hard you try to banish them, some things just stick.
It’s nearly one a.m. in my area of the United States. I’ve been home for about twelve hours. The writing is slow (a fact that shouldn’t surprise me). That could pose a problem.
This post is time-sensitive–it won’t have much oomph after the results have been announced. And if the world already knows, I’ll have to go back and change all my tenses.
But for the past twelve hours I’ve neither turned on the television nor googled. I know nothing about what’s happening outside this room. And if I know nothing, my tenses can stay the same. Where ignorance is bliss, etc. Now back to the referendum.
Both sides have concerns about the future of an independent Scotland. CNN Money lists five reasons to worry: the currency mess; the debt debate; oil rights; the effect on the financial industry (the Royal Bank of Scotland is threatening to move headquarters to England [If it does, will it have to change its name?]); and the country’s relationship to the European Union. Or, to condense things a bit, one reason to worry: money. The Scotch Whisky Association expresses concern about financial repercussions of independence, but so far there’s been no indication whisky makers will move south. (If they move to England, will it still qualify as Scotch?)
Back to the referendum. Actor James McAvoy, who, for the good of his career, kept his opinion to himself, expressed the gravity of the choice:
“This is the first time in years a developed country has talked about splitting up and it’s a massive thing,” he said. “If you vote for a president or a prime minister based on political or economic issues and they don’t deliver, that’s not so bad – you can protest four years down the line and vote them out. If you vote for continued unification or independence there is no protest vote – that’s it. And that could be it for decades, for centuries.”
Centuries. That’s what makes this such a grand process. Scotland has been part of the Union for hundreds of years. Today’s decision will affect that it and the countries it separates from far into the future. And the question is settled not by soldiers on a battlefield but peacefully, by individuals at the ballot box.
I don’t want to descend into the mire of sentiment. I’m best at detachment, standing a safe distance from the subject, letting irony handle things.
But, putting irony aside, isn’t what happened in Scotland today remarkable?
Not as remarkable as the 1994 election in South Africa in 1994, the first in which citizens of all races were allowed to take part.
But remarkable nonetheless.
And not just Scotland. The other countries behaved remarkably, too. After all, the English could have dressed up like Birnam Wood and marched right up the hill to Dunsinane and put a stop to the whole troublesome business.
There are probably laws and ordinances in place to prevent the English from doing any such thing, but if you’ll suspend disbelief for the length of the previous paragraph and, for the sake of the post, just imagine Birnam Wood marching up that hill . . . It could happen . . . There’s precedent. It wouldn’t be the first time Scotland was invaded by trees.
I should have published this well before midnight, but because I set my own deadlines, I’m free to shuffle them around as I please. Blogging should generate pleasure, not stress.
I’ll end by saying I’ve always been fascinated by the British Isles, and especially Scotland. I’ve said dozens of times, and will continue to say, that if my ancestors had just stayed put, I might be living–and voting–there now. My one visit there was too brief. I love the weather. I was not designed to live in Texas heat and drought. I dream of going back and seeing more of the country, standing in the mist and the rain, eating haggis (I liked it.), and listening to the beautiful, musical brogues.
And when I’m a rich and famous author, I shall pack up the cats and my husband and fly over (all of us first class) and while the cats are in quarantine, I’ll find and purchase a croft with some pigs and chickens and sheep and a pony and some dogs and central heating and A/C, because you never know when the weather will turn, and learn to dance the Highland Fling, and sit amongst the heather and write more best sellers and rake in the dough and get a flat in London and every year go to Bloody Scotland and sit at the bar hobnobbing with other famous writers and drinking Scotch. Unless I discover I don’t like Scotch. I haven’t tried it yet.
But I’m not going to get rich and famous or anything else but tired, sitting up till five a.m. to indulge myself by composing rambling, stream-of-consciousness blog posts.