“The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God. There shall no evil happen to them: they are in peace.” – Scottish War Memorial
It’s no secret that the Scots are proud of their military history. They’re known for being feisty people and don’t exactly try to hide the monuments to freedom fighters William Wallace and Robert Bruce that stand in front of Edinburgh Castle. The Castle itself, built for function and not style, has cannons set up all along the outside wall, showing how prepared it was to deal with intruders. Resting above the entrance to the castle is the Scottish Coat of Arms, which includes the motto “Nemo Me Impune Lacessit”, which roughly translates into “No one attacks me without punishment.”
Simply put, Scots aren’t afraid of a fight.
This isn’t to say that they don’t have pride in other aspects of their culture. The sound of street musicians playing the bagpipes resonates beautifully in the air, so that no sightseeing tourist is without a soundtrack as they wander. In the view from the castle, it’s hard to overlook the giant Gothic monument standing proudly in the middle of the city. It is a monument to Sir Walter Scott, the author who held tightly the culture of his people and represented it in every work. The train station rests in the shadow of his monument, named after his Waverley series of novels. This is where J.K. Rowling escaped to in order to write Harry Potter. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was born here before relocating and creating Sherlock Holmes.
But even men like Sir Walter Scott had battles to fight. He fought to retain the history of his people, even when elements were though to be lost. The Honours of Scotland, including the crown jewels, Sword of State, and Sceptre of Scotland, were hidden away from when Oliver Cromwell (a truly awful man) went to war against Scotland. After Scotland and England were joined together in 1707, the Honours were locked away near Edinburgh Castle and completely forgotten. It wasn’t until a group that included Walter Scott searched for them that they were located and returned to be displayed in the castle. He fought against indecision to refuse to let national identity fade. It wasn’t for riches and fame that he fought for the Honours. It was, in his eyes, and honorable battle. A righteous fight.
Even now, national identity refuses to fade. Fights take different forms now than they did in the days of Wallace and Bruce, but there is still a fight for independence. It takes place in Parliament now, and with politicians and legislators as opposed to archers and swordsmen with their claymores. It’s a more civil, less violent fight, but the goal is the same.
Of course, even when not fully independent, Scots are still proud of their fighters. The agreement to unite Scotland under London rule in 1707 was in many ways structured to try and benefit both parties. Scotland would benefit from the rapid growth of the British Empire in terms of trading routes, and England would get a united British Isle, along with the cherished Scottish fighters. Museums in Edinburgh Castle hold relics of the glory earned by the feared Scottish Fusiliers and the Black Watch. When fighting on behalf of monarchs that were not their own, they still fought hard and proudly.
They fight. We all fight, really. Each and every one of us goes into a battle every day. After all, it was another Scot, Ian Maclaren, who is credited with the quote, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle”. It could be a battle against financial struggle, bodily sickness, or even in favor of selfish ambition. We’re all fighting. The question is what we fight for. Are we fighting a righteous battle, are we fighting for our own gain (I call it Cromwelling), or worse yet, are we fighting just for the sake of fighting?
The Scottish War Memorial is basically a chapel. It is a small building in Edinburgh Castle, built initially to honor those who fought in the Great War, and expanded to include WWII. It is almost a church, and truthfully more gorgeous than many churches I know of. It is a somber, yet beautiful monument to those lost in the proud ranks of Scottish soldiers. And in the middle of it sits a sort of alter, surrounded by the words “The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God. There shall no evil happen to them: they are in peace.”
These fighters fought a righteous battle, and now they finally found peace. Maybe we’re too focused on peace in this life. Maybe we forget that the struggles we go through are constant, and when one battle is won another approaches. Maybe we forget the importance of fighting. Maybe we forget, in a day in which we are so cautious about offending others or trying to establish world peace, that there is honor in fighting for a righteous cause.
We live in a world that tends to fight for self. There is no more honor in fighting. Instead, it is a constant struggle to be the most successful, the most appealing, the richest. We fight and dance for convoluted purposes. We don’t fight for freedom. We don’t fight for identity. We find our identities in all of the wrong things and never realize what is happening to us.
We are all involved in a hard battle. I hope mine is a righteous one. I hope mine is one that benefits and brings honor to the right causes and people. I hope I fight for a better Jackson, Mississippi. I hope I fight for the sake of my future family. I hope I fight for my current friends. I hope I fight with my eyes looking not for peace right now, but that which comes after this.
The souls of the righteous are fighting, but they in the hand of God. There, no evil shall happen to them. Those fighters are finally in peace.