What a pickle. A darn sorry mess. Those in ‘power’ bluster, befuddle, resign and call ‘no confidence’ when the citizens of the UK entrusted their confidence in a vote.
A vote that is a poll of public opinion and at very best (or very worst) a mandate for further action.
I’m surrounded by disbelief, but then I live in South Cambridgeshire, one of the few areas that tipped the scales on the Remain outcome. Elsewhere and growing ever closer are the weeds in the cracks of our society. Spurred on by the recent rainfall, the loud mouthed, the rude, and the racist are growing stronger into a tangled mess.
No, I don’t think all Leave voters are racist. I live with a Leave voter (yep, this weekend was ‘tense’). No, I’m not denying that immigration exists, that the NHS is stretched, that we have to follow EU law with all its red tape and that the Brussels machine is expensive. But the Leave vote has fuelled the more extreme in our broken communities that are racist. That blame foreign workers for their situation. That think now the UK will begin the administrative migraine that is getting out of what we are in, anyone who is not ‘one of them’ will be sent packing.
Quiet are the local Leavers. No shouting. Nothing smug. Occasional saccharine memes on Facebook and Twitter about how a democratic decision has been made and we all now need to shake hands, drink tea and do the need. Distant are the Leavers on the firebombing of a Halal shop, of the racist abuse on public transport. The acts are condemned, but no, ‘it’s definitely not what we voted for’.
No? So what did you think would happen?
The cracks in our country’s pavements were visible before June 23rd. The campaign put a clearly demarcated ‘us’ against ‘them’. It started with ‘Leave’ and ‘Remain’ and ended with ‘who will have to leave’ and ‘what remains’?
Racist abuse was here before polling day, with scarves pulled from school girl’s heads, racial profiling at airports, jobs reported as ‘stolen’.
We all said that was wrong before we voted and we say that it is wrong now, but we are consistently failing to reflect upon why.
In theory, we are a nation more connected than ever before. Life is live-streamed on multiple platforms, informing our choices, displaying our inner fears and outer wants. But we set the preferences for that connection.
On Friday morning my Facebook feed was largely aghast as was I. I chose my feed and it reflected my view. The papers I bought spoke of the shame, the theft of my European identity, the lack of British unity within its own people. They reflected my view, because I chose it.
Since polling day, we have held mirrors up to our minds and have then been surprised by what we have found when we look away. Real life is far less flattering than our media reflection and the shock we feel when confronted by it takes time and space to get over.
I am a ‘Remainer’ who honestly didn’t think that the UK would vote to leave. I am still gutted, stunned, disappointed and raw. I know lovely Leavers who honestly didn’t think that the racist abuse, the violent attacks and the xenophobic torment would happen. And they too are gutted and stunned and disappointed and raw. We both spent far too much time looking in the mirror.
Now the politicians (those who are left, led by whoever draws the shortest straw) need to hash out a deal to get us all moving forward. In what direction I honestly can’t tell you, but standing still and letting the weeds grow just isn’t an option.
I want to engage more with the counterpoint to my own reflection. I want to better understand what led the ‘Leavers’ to feel so utterly despondent about their own country, and their own wider European community that that had to insist on divorce. I need to better understand those who insist upon popping the kettle on and having a brew, while asking why I can’t accept the result and move on.
And I need to better understand why they couldn’t accept the country that they had, with all its cracks, and work together with the 48% to make it better.