I wasn’t sure whether to write a post on this or not. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last year or so, you’ll be aware that in the UK, we’ve held a referendum on our membership of the European Union – and, last week, the UK voted by 52% to 48%, to leave the EU. It’s thrown our political system into turmoil, but more than that – it’s descended into chaos.
For what it’s worth, I voted Remain, and that’s why I’m nervous about publishing this post. Since Friday, the overwhelming attitude has been “We won, you lost, so sit down and shut up” from the Leave camp. I have issues with this for more than a few reasons (democracy doesn’t mean “we can have our vote and no-one can say anything about it”, it means that you can have your vote and other people can be vocal in their disagreement with it).
I’ve aired my views on the referendum result on Twitter and Facebook. I’ve pontificated and argued and removed Facebook friends over things they have said. I’m not going to use this blog post as another opportunity to talk about the result. Instead, I want to talk about what it’s done to this country.
2016 will be the year of the xenophobe. This referendum should never have been put to us – it should have been a discussion for parliament to debate and vote on. I’m all for referendums (referenda? referendii?) but putting this question to the public has unleashed a colossal shitstorm of hatred and intolerance – and whereas before, these were views that most people kept to themselves, simmering and seething in their own hatred, it’s suddenly acceptable to air them loud and proud.
If you accuse these people of racism, you get called a “lefty liberal”, a “bleeding heart” or worse. If you point out their xenophobia, they justify themselves – they’re “just standing up for Britain”, we’re “disrespecting the sacrifice Our Lads made in World War II”, or they’re “thinking about their children’s future”.
Mate, there’s not much point thinking about your children’s future. If they’re growing up with racist, xenophobic, intolerant arseholes for parents, I don’t hold out much hope for their futures, truth be told.
It’s not just anecdotal reports on Twitter. Even the Daily Mail – the most anti-EU, pro-xenophobia newspaper there is – has reported on the hate crimes being committed. Only, for some reason, no-one seems to be talking about it like it’s a hate crime.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that we have no intention of remaining in Wales. I’m disappointed that my country has voted in favour of Leave, but even more disappointed at the resulting outpouring of hatred and bile. That’s not where I want SB to grow up, and even if it means sacrificing the opportunity for a Welsh-medium education, it’s a sacrifice we’re willing to make. Scotland looks like the most likely option – even if they don’t vote for independence in their next independence referendum, at least we’ll be somewhere with more tolerance and less hatred for our European neighbours and immigrants in general.
I don’t want SB to grow up in a world where “We won, you lost, so shut up about it” is deemed an acceptable way of silencing dissent. I don’t want her to grow up in a country where debate is stifled and democracy is a one-time thing. I definitely don’t want her to grow up in a country where statements like the pictures in this blog post aren’t condemned anymore, but accepted and even celebrated.
Not everyone who voted Leave is racist, or did it for racist/xenophobic reasons. I get it. We all get it. You don’t have to flood the blog comments pointing it out, nor do you have to act all offended if you voted Leave and I’ve hurt your delicate feelings. Unless you know full well that you voted because you hate immigrants/want to walk down the street without hearing Polish being spoken/don’t like mosques, this isn’t aimed at you.
I’m sick of people saying “Everyone who voted Remain needs to suck it up and get on with it, and stand hand in hand as a united Britain. We don’t know what’s going to happen so stop being dramatic”. You’re right, we don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, but I can see what is happening right now – and if you think I am going to sit down and shut up while blatant xenophobia and hatred is spewed around us, you’d better think again.
As for “stand hand in hand as a united Britain”, you’ve got to be kidding me. A country where we are expecting to stand hand in hand with those who advocate violence against people based on where they come from? To unite with the sort of Britain First filth who are now saying “Can we tear down all the mosques yet?”? To herald in a “new era for Britain” with those who preach intolerance and hatred?
No chance. That’s not the world I want for me, and it’s most certainly not the world I want for my daughter.