"Maggie, Maggie, Maggie,..."
by A. E. McCann
Death comes to us all. The news came on Monday, April 8th that Margaret Thatcher was dead.
My initial reaction was, I kid you not dear reader, “Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead”, and that ghoulish chant was ringing all over the U.K. and especially Scotland. In St. Georges Square in Glasgow, the scene resembled V.E. Day; what a coincidence. I put my instinctive happiness at the news on my facebook page, with that initial phrase from Oz's happy song on my computer for all to see.
My reaction is now “Ho hum, and good riddance.” Like Argentina, I won’t be crying for Maggie.
The greengrocer’s daughter ground her way into politics and became the leader of her party, where all ‘her dogs wore her collars” and lost their family jewels into the bargain. Thatcher became Prime Minister three times, which was lucky for her and her true believers but unlucky for the unions, British Steel, the mining pits, social services, and the working class.
In a nutshell, unlucky for Scotland.
As a girl, from my bedroom window I could look across to the town of Motherwell and see the mighty tower of the Ravens Craig steel works. That place employed hundreds of people for miles around, as did central Scotland's coal mines. It wasn’t unusual to see men slowly coming home from work, worn out and covered in the dark and dangerous breath of the mines they worked. These were hard men, proud of their occupation because most people above ground were s**t scared of such a dangerous and unforgiving way to put food on the table. And who would want to deal with angry hissing vats of molten steel, at say Ravens Craig? Not your average man in the street.
In the Thatcher era, working men were herded into the holding pens of unemployment with scant hope of a job. Poor re-training efforts added insult to injury. The masculine safety of the betting shop and pub added to the problems that families and communities had no choice but to deal with. Social services, health care and education also felt the caress of the Iron Lady. Alcoholism and gambling caused havoc and despair in families all over the industrial landscape of Scotland. Drugs crept into the picture too. Women tried to hold their families together, got any kind of jobs that they could, and latch-key kids became the new fact of family life. If they could, people began to look to the North Sea and jobs on oil rigs, or the Middle East. The brain drain grew stronger under Thatcher’s three terms as P.M., and America was one beneficiary.
Education was my savior and, for a while, my ticket out of Scotland. I got into art school, and when I was done, I didn’t get my first “art job” until over ten years later. But once I had graduated, it was over that same ten years that the Conservatives began to make it so much harder for students to get into university or college, with these plans coming right from the top, from Margret Thatcher. I had gotten in just under the wire, and that truth makes me very appreciative of the breaks I’ve had along the way.
So, here we are, in soggy damp Michigan, April, 2013. I keep in close touch with family in Scotland, and it’s soggy and cold over there too. Margaret Thatcher is to be accorded the honor of a state funeral, which makes me sick to my stomach. It is undeserved. It’s an insult to the people and their communities that she wrecked. The Scots will not escape this insult, the rub being that a substantial amount of taxpayers’ money will pay for the event.
Fair to say that the people of Scotland and the thousands (like me) who left her shores because we felt that there was nothing there for us will not mourn Thatcher, but will just be glad she’s finally gone. My energy is directed elsewhere, but for one last time, I can’t resist hollering “Maggie, Maggie, Maggie, Out, Out, Out!”
A. E. McCann is a Scot, an artist and a rock n' roll singer.