Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Brexit Wounds

Ever since the very early hours of Friday 24th June I've had all these words raging in my head. All these emotions. Hate, disbelief, shock, despair, anger, hope, confusion, hysteria...It's just been a babble. A mess. I voted Remain. I thought Remain would win because...because I just did. Because the Leave campaign was full of lies. Because I couldn't believe that many people would let this man speak for us. Because I believe that, whilst the EU has its flaws, we are stronger together and that we have a responsibility as people - not as Britons but as people - to help each other. I still believe that, and yet here we are. Brexit is happening.

Since Friday, I've consumed so much news, so many opinions, seen so much outpouring of feeling on both sides, and I'm exhausted and heart-sore. There has been a sharp rise in incidents of hate crime since the result, such as Polish families in my own county receiving signs reading "No more Polish vermin" through their doors. I'm sickened that this result has opened the doors for that kind of bigotry and racism, that we've become a country that has mainstreamed it and validated it. When did this happen? That is not the world I know. Then again, I'm lucky to be relatively sheltered in Cambridge, working for the University. We thrive on international partnerships, like many universities around the country. So maybe I'm just out of touch with the rest of the country, or at least with roughly half of it.

I've never had a strong sense of national identity, because I grew up travelling all over the UK and Europe, I think, and because I grew up in a generation used to free movement around the continent. But I do love England...or at least the image I had in my head of England. I can't identify with people who scream abuse at immigrants in the street, or talk proudly of "sending them home" in our village shop. I can't feel any kinship with people who would rather destroy the country than share it. I thought we were better than that.

Nor can I identify with people who can happily ignore the economic impact of Brexit. Their shortsightedness astounds me. It's clear the Leave leaders had no plan in the event of a victory, and now they're rushing to assure us everything will be the same. But of course it can't be, and it's a fantasy to think we can have all the benefits of being in the EU whilst paying none of the fees. It terrifies me to think Boris Johnson may be the man leading us into the exit proceedings. But then, the idea of a general election terrifies me too, knowing that huge numbers of people in this country support Ukip and Nigel Farage.

So here we are. There is no plan, presumably because Leave didn't really expect to win. I imagine they thought this would just be a good way to put the wind up David Cameron, and that afterwards they could sit in their parlours, smoke their cigars, and brag about how they shook up the status quo. Well, congrats, because you really did and now you don't know what to do. And we pay the price in uncertainty and hatred.

Meanwhile, "Bregret" kicks in. I can't tell you how many petitions I've seen circulated for a second referendum. I even signed one, although in my heart of hearts I don't feel that's the solution. We could have referendums forever. The fact is, the referendum result is not legally binding, so another one doesn't particularly help. From those not feeling "Bregret," I'm told that this is democracy, get over it. As if there's a time limit on democratic debate. I'm told the people have spoken and that we're going to make this country great again. Obviously nobody actually knows how. The only people I have seen confidently and blithely assuring me that everything's going to be great - exciting, even! - are rich old men. And even they don't seem to have a clue how to make it so, beyond issuing ludicrous demands to the EU that can't possibly be fulfilled.

Ever since Friday I've been anxious, unable to focus, and full of anger that has nowhere to go. I've signed all the petitions, joined all the groups, written to my MP, and read all the news articles, and I still have no idea what I can do. I can't quietly sit back and accept that this divided, broken, bitter landscape is my future, or the future of the people I love. I can't stand the thought of my niece growing up in a society where this is acceptable. So I need to find ways to keep standing up for what I believe in, even if it's bloody futile. Because I do still believe that we as people, regardless of where we're from, can do better than that. And that we need to.

So to my Muslim boss, our doctors from Poland, Holland, Belgium, Japan, Turkey, Switzerland, India, Brazil, and all over the UK and Ireland, to the nurses from all over the world I see every day here in Addenbrooke's working to save lives, to the taxi drivers of all nationalities who ferried me and Remic all over Cambridge in May and earlier this month, to the nurses and doctors from Spain and the Middle East who helped Kyle through his surgery on Saturday...Well, I value you all. I love some of you. You're my friends and workmates and neighbours, you've improved and enriched my life and I'm sorry, so sorry, that you're experiencing this.

To the Leavers - I'm sorry if you're one of those who now regret your vote. I'm sorry you were lied to, that you believed your vote didn't count. I'm sorry our media and government have taught you that. If you're one of those who has no "Bregret," then I'm sorry you think the political, economic, and social troubles facing us now are worth it. I'm sorry you felt so unheard and disenfranchised that you now feel the only way forward is hatred and further division. I'm sorry you still believe in Good Old Britain, that you don't see or don't care how harmful those colonialist, imperialist notions are. I'm sorry that you're dragging the rest of us into a quagmire of unrest because you don't like having Polish neighbours. I wish you were better than that, like I assumed you were.

And I'm sorry, but no, I won't shut up and get over it.

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