Somehow I have become a defender of England. Anyone who knew me growing up would laugh and laugh at that. I was born and grew up in Newfoundland, which is North American by geography, Canadian by politics, mostly Irish by culture (that "mostly" is important) and yet somehow so monarchist that I'm convinced that my grandmother is alive still because of the social cachet provided by the UK Hello! magazines I send her every week.
Yet when I was growing up I had t-shirts with the pink-white-and-green flag of the independent Newfoundland. I wept at what might have been in 1949, when Newfoundland decided whether it would join Canada (with heavy prodding from the British) or go it alone in the new post-war world, taking our high rates of poverty, scurvy, rickets and beri-beri with us. When I was 17, I discounted the tone in which my grandmother and great-aunts talked about those first cheques from the Canadian government (you've never heard the phrase "baby bonus" uttered with such reverence) and the difference those cheques had made to their lives.
Now I live in England, after some time in the US. And I'm not English. I'm Canadian, that easy inoffensive nationality. No one will ever criticise me about anything. We're nice. We don't start wars (although, by God, we join them). I've never taken a cheque from any government other than a tax refund. I'll never have to defend my country's actions online or in a backpackers' hostel (as precious few First Nations people, the people who we've offended most egregiously, can be found at either).
But I'm still compelled to defend the English as a modern day people. They're not the Victorians of the history books, fighting for Empire. They don't think they have a monopoly on rectitude or justice. They're proud of the things that they should be proud of. Shakespeare. The common law. World War II. Getting rid of slavery when they did (much earlier than the US). Queueing.
And there are a lot of things the English are not proud of, too. They're not proud of subjugating India or of their role in the slave trade. They acknowledge the bad things they've done, which, I've got to say, I'm not convinced that Americans have really done. There's nothing that irks me more than a person claiming to be both a Scot and a "proud Southerner" going on about how Scotland ought to vote for independence.
If any of these "Scots and Southerners" can tell me that they watched the Salmond-Darling debate and can articulate good reasons why Salmond had the upper hand then fine. But most of them haven't, and can't (because he got his arse kicked). You need to know what you are talking about before you can go on about romantic notions about freedom. Because frankly, we're all in the EU now, and freedom doesn't mean the same thing as it did when William Wallace (who was a Lowlander, just saying) was around.
One final thing; I have to express my utter irritation at Americans who use phrases like "occupied Ireland." Honestly, you don't know what you are talking about. The 1998 Good Friday accord was so hard-won and it brought peace. No one wants to mess with it. It was, and is, a miracle. Anyone who has even the slightest knowledge of Israeli-Palestinian politics must know that.
So shut up, and don't rock the boat, and don't call Ireland 'occupied.' Everyone involved agreed that the people of the 6 counties should have self-determination. If they decide that they want a vote on independence, as the people of Scotland are having, then they shall have one. And if the people of Scotland, or Northern Ireland, decide to become independent, then they shall become so, without bloodshed. And that, too, will be a miracle.