My Heart Is in the Highlands

Amidst economic devastation, mass out-migration, failing public schools and battered roads, Michigan's Legislature has seen fit to hold hearings and discussions on ... the official state tartan of Michigan.

Now, my first reaction is that, with what the Michigan government has recently churned outspecial favors to certain companies and unions, more regulations and high taxes — I'm glad the Legislature is occupying itself with something so innocuous. But the irony of a burdensome state government codifying a particular plaid is too much to handle. The Scottish, after all, do not tend to favor or trust big government.

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In fact, in 1745, the English parliament banned the Highlanders from wearing kilts, playing bagpipes and carrying weapons. The rebellious Scots skirted (pun intended) the law in various ways, from concealing small knives in their socks to sewing a few stitches to make their kilts "trousers." A traditional Highland dance, the Seann Triubhas ("old trousers"), celebrates the lifting of the ban in 1782; the dance mimics the movement of shaking off trousers.

An announcement read:

This is bringing before all the Sons of the Gael, the King and Parliament of Britain have forever abolished the act against the Highland Dress; which came down to the Clans from the beginning of the world to the year 1746. This must bring great joy to every Highland Heart. You are no longer bound down to the unmanly dress of the Lowlander. This is declaring to every Man, young and old, simple and gentle, that they may after this put on and wear the Truis, the Little Kilt, the Coat, and the Striped Hose, as also the Belted Plaid, without fear of the Law of the Realm or the spite of the enemies. (Emphasis added)

Michigan's government is not something that would bring great joy to Highland hearts. To truly respect the Scottish spirit, the Legislature would do well to leave off establishing "official" tartans and instead focus on expanding our freedom.