Our political cousins in the United Kingdom have once more
demonstrated why this tiny island nation has, for the past
millennium, provided some of our civilization’s most notable
moments in the quest for human freedom and self-governance.
Like all things “human,” the thousand year-old government
made by descendants of Angles, Saxons, Scots, Gaels, Normans,
Vikings and Picts (as well as many others who followed them)
has had its flaws and shortcomings, but at certain moments
this government of men and women has risen to astonishing
and indelible heights.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has just signed the formal
document which sets into motion irrevocably the withdrawal of
her nation from the European Union (EU). Her representative
has now delivered this document to the head of the EU.
There are many issues that were in play, and at stake, in this
separation that began after World War II with the signing of the
Treaty of Rome. That treaty led to the creation of the European
Common Market which, in turn, led to the European Union and
a continental common currency, the euro. The ideals behind
these events were laudatory --- to avoid the seemingly endless
pattern of war, human tragedy and violence on the European
continent. But the ambition of European cooperation and peace
was compromised by the process of its political evolution toward
a single governmental and bureaucratic state. That process was
marred by haste, presumption, and the lack of building a
democratic consensus of agreement in its member states. The
peoples of Europe speak many languages, hold different faiths,
have distinct cultures, contrasting economic conditions, and
varied political traditions. These are circumstances which
cannot be hurriedly eradicated or wished away.
A singular document in modern history was the English Magna
Carta (1215), perhaps the earliest moment of the journey of what
we now think of as political freedom. From that moment, English
history evolved from it feudal origins to popular representative
democracy, albeit it has maintained a symbolic monarchy.
Along the way, it became the world’s largest colonial power by
means of its naval domination of the seas, and inevitably, it
abused its power even as it settled in new territories and
conquered others. Perhaps the most consequential of these darker
moments was its treatment of its colonies in North America
which finally led to a local revolution and their independence as
the United States of America. There were also unfortunate and
indefensible actions of the British Empire in Africa and Asia
during the period when European superpowers controlled and
exploited most of the world. But when that colonial era had
ended, it was the former British colonies, far more than those
once owned by French, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, German
and other European regimes, which were able more successfully
to flourish in the world of so many sovereign nations and peoples.
This was the United Kingdom’s great contribution to modern
civilization, its tradition of law and evolving freedom, and more,
as demonstrated by its unforgettable courage and resolve in
resisting Hitlerian totalitarianism in those dark moments at the
outset of World War II.
The United Kingdom has lost its colonial empire, and it is no
longer the dominant naval power on earth. Its component regions,
England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, still endure
long-brewing political tensions. Immigration, much of it granted
to those born in its former colonies, have introduced new conflicts
and challenges for it leaders and political representatives.
But this small island is apparently not quite finished as a
political identity, nor as an example to the rest of us.
Those who believe in so-called “globalism” are in too much of
a hurry to impose their beliefs on a still young, complicated and
developing humanity. Ultimately, it seems that the idealism of
world cooperation and peace might be, and should be, realized,
but as we learned from the horrific experiments of fascism and
communism in the 20th century, those who employ rhetoric as
a facade to impose the end of freedom and national sovereignty
do not represent the same ideals that are inspired by human
liberty and independence.
One more time, the citizens of Great Britain have expressed not
only their indomitable will for their own identity, but they have
stated again their historic message of what freedom means for
We can all be grateful that this British lion still roars.
Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.