Yesterday, I wrote an angry letter to a family member. I didn’t send it, because I don’t want to widen a rift that’s already wide enough. Instead, I sent it to a good friend, who agreed, but urged me to post it on Facebook. I didn’t do that either –because I was starting to worry about whether we Remain voters were sounding just as whingy as the Leave camp said we were.
Then that same friend shared a post by Rebecca S. Buck which you should be able to read here. (Rebecca, thank you, I hope you intended this to be shared everywhere).
And I thought, bloody hell, she’s right.
So we were outvoted in the referendum. Does that mean our views no longer count and we don’t get a say any more? “You were on the losing side, so shut up, go home, it’s our country now.” That sounds awfully like a dictatorship, or what an invasion force does to a country. And wasn’t it bits of the Leave campaign spouting rhetoric about being invaded? Oh irony.
Can you imagine the anti-slavers shrugging their shoulders after someone called them nasty names, and going home for a nice cup of tea? Where would we be if the suffragettes had simply simpered when their Daddies patted them on the head saying, “I’m sure it’s not as bad as all that”?
I’m not going to post that letter publicly, because it’s private. But I’m sure as hell not shutting up either.
The Leave vote won the referendum. That’s just the beginning. We do not have to roll over and accept it without another word. We’ve seen in just four days how much Far-Right vitriol has been stirred up. How much damage is being done to our economy. How many of the young generation feel that their futures have been ripped from them. And how many older voters are regretting their decision.
Those who, for whatever reason, did not vote were silent in the referendum. Perhaps they were silenced by feeling alienated and disenfranchised, perhaps it was simple lassitude. Those of us who did vote should not be silenced by angry jibes. We should encourage non-voters to find their voices again, through reasonable and united argument. There are many loud, angry voices, but I like to think that, had the situation been reversed, the Remain camp wouldn’t be accosting racists in the streets and hurling abuse at them. After all, what could we say? “Hey, you….stay?”
Four day ago, like many others, I was frantically googling how to emigrate. Where might I go? Would my partner come with me if I really, really wanted to leave? Could I apply for citizenship elsewhere?
“We’ve got our country back!” they cried. Whose country? It’s not mine. My Britain didn’t look like this, just a few short days ago, with some people yelling abuse at each other in the streets, others afraid to go out today and fearful for their future tomorrow. With families divided and one half of the nation sniping at the other – ignorant – sore loser – racist – naïve.
And I’m really angry about that. I’m not angry with you if you voted Leave (well, maybe I am, but I’ll get over it – you’re entitled to your opinion). I’m angry about what the leaders of the campaigns on both sides allowed this referendum to become. Vicious, personal and divisive, with any reasonable arguments undermined by lies.
So I’m not shutting up. Far from it. To my regret, though I voted to Remain, I didn’t get out there and campaign. Like many, I never believed for one second, not until it was far, far too late, that the Leave vote would win. Perhaps I was arrogant to believe that. If you think so, you’re entitled to that opinion, too.
No, I’m not shutting up. Call me what you like. It’s not over. Can Brexit be blocked by Scotland, or by parliament refusing to vote to engage Article 50? Should it? I don’t know. I signed the petition for a second referendum even though I’m not sure it’s the right thing. My heart longs for it, my head says it’s never going to happen and would plunge us into even worse trouble if it did. My heart won.
I won’t shut up. But because I’m a bit shy, and a bit British, I’ll be not-shutting-up awfully politely. You won’t find me spreading insults and rage across social media. You might find me on a protest march, but probably not shouting and screaming. Oh, but if I come across you in the street bullying someone else because of their race or nationality my manners might slip a bit.
I’ll be signing every reasonable petition I can get my hands on, just in case they can have an effect. I’ll be lobbying my MP to ask her to vote against this in parliament. I’ll be proud to say what I think, even if you disagree with me. And I hope you will, because I’d really like to understand what you believe. And I’m a bit new to this, so if any of you can tell me what else I should be doing, please do.
Don’t any of you shut up either. We need to keep talking to each other.