Date: 5th October 2019 at 2:25pm
Written by:

This is an article I wasn’t sure how to write or where I’d put it if I did. It’s about Celtic but it isn’t. It didn’t start off being about Celtic, that’s for sure.

But Celtic is more than just our football club. It is an expression of ourselves. I don’t know about you, but I look at my values and my belief system and I like to think that they would have led me to Celtic … if Celtic didn’t help form them in the first place.

Because that’s a chicken or the egg type question for me, and although I’ve been thinking about it for years I still don’t really know what the answer is.

I do know that I cannot easily separate one thing from the other.

My political and social outlook might not have been formed by this club, but we share an identical ethos regardless.

Open, inclusive, forward looking, welcoming. Internationalist.

I cannot imagine following any other club, and certainly not in Scotland.

The idea of following one who’s support is insular, sectarian, parochial, nationalistic … I can’t even imagine it.

It’s baffling to me that anyone could.

September was a vintage month for the idiot fringe, for the backward and bigoted. Two major op-eds appeared in our media asking if it was time we did away with Catholic education in Scotland. I have a different suggestion; how about we just do away with Catholics entirely?

It’s the perverse end logic of that position. Because that’s what those proposing this as a “solution” to sectarianism in Scotland really mean.

It reminds me a lot of something I once read about a group of Nazis in early 1942, when the war had turned against them. The Wannsee meeting had decided the fate of the Jews, and these were some of the bureaucrats who would have to implement it. These officials were strictly mid-rank, and carried much of the weight. They were clearly frustrated.

One said to another, “I think this focus on the Jews has become a problem.”

To which one of his colleagues replied. “I agree. But when there are no more Jews then there won’t be a problem anymore.”

I am paraphrasing, but that was the gist of it and as far as I’m concerned it’s the unspoken sentiment at the heart of those targeting the schools. If you eliminate the expression of and recognition of the section of Scotland’s population which is openly Catholic, you don’t have to worry about anti-Catholic bigotry dirtying the place up any longer.

It’s not exactly a new idea.

You know, I love Scotland and feel really passionately about this country and its ability to stand on its own two feet in a big, hostile world.

But I am ever aware that we have, here, a backward, hillbilly shit-kicker segment of the population whose social outlook is such that it would be more at home in a southern US trailer park covered with Make America Great Again stickers and a Confederate flag flying overhead.

You only have to look at this clip to get it.

These are citizens of fair Scotia in the year 2019.

Closing Catholic schools isn’t going to eradicate that. The same people who appear in that Home Movie From Hell would doubtless be the first to complain about children being “separated at a young age” but look at the kids wandering around that hall and listening to that bile.

Close all the schools you want; this is why the problem will continue to fester.

I come from a Catholic family, and I went to a Catholic school.

I believe that my education in that environment – where we learned about religion as a whole and were encouraged to think beyond our own particular denomination – was part of what made me the person I am today, and gave me the social and political outlook I take a lot of pride in.

The other formative thing for me was being a Celtic fan.

I have always been glad that Celtic was not a “Catholic club.”

We’ve always been more than that, we’ve always tried to reach out and appeal to everyone.

Look at the picture on this article … that’s a tri-colour with the Pope on it.

Is that what our club is?

No, because the people standing around that flag don’t have any problem with it and they’re not all Catholics … they have no issue at all with those who are.

Sectarianism doesn’t come from this … it comes from those who can’t look at that flag without blowing a gasket.

I like to think I would have grown up like this without Celtic.

I also think that if I had I would have been drawn to this club instinctively as a result.

But I can’t be sure of it, because of the enormous impact I know Celtic has had on me, and that impact has been seriously profound.

I learned so much following Celtic.

I have ever been grateful to this club not just because of what it is but also because of what it is not. It is not backward facing. There was never a time when it defined itself by narrow, sectarian policies. This club has always taken pride in being thought of as the plucky outsider; I have been a plucky outsider my whole life, and one of the things I learned from Celtic is that there is nothing wrong with being different and being seen that way.

I realised early, from those who had followed the club before me, that I would have been welcomed in this Family no matter what I was; Protestant, Catholic, Jew, Muslim or agnostic. Even Jedi’s are welcome at Celtic Park. Just leave the lightsabres at the gate.

There are people in this country who want to reduce the whole sectarianism debate to what happens in or around football; it was the reason that I could not and would support, even for one second, the Offensive Behaviour Act which defined the whole issue through the prism of a game which I love. It was also a socially backward piece of legislation which treated football supporters as if we were all shaven headed goons.

It was an easy answer to a much more complicated issue, and as long as there are still orange parades marching up and down the streets every year – and now bullying local authorities and the police – I will refuse to believe the political class takes the issue seriously.

I hate that I have to share a country with the redneck tendency, and I would support any change which pushed them to the fringes where they belong. Closing Catholic schools would pander to these people. It would certainly do nothing to rid us of them.

Celtic will be here regardless; for a lot of people – stupid people – this club is a Catholic organisation. Their fear of all things Irish and Catholic would survive the closure of the schools. As long as this football club existed they’d have something to hate.

They don’t understand Celtic and they never have.

I love this club, for everything it is and for everything that it’s not.

I’m pretty clear on what those things are.

They made me what I am.

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