OK so I finally get how it feels to have lost your country. Brexit has introduced me to a whole set of emotions – mainly depression, but also anger, despair, hopelessness and bewilderment. Sometimes we simply don’t know how much a thing means to us until we’ve lost it.
But I have learnt something horribly useful about myself.
I now feel towards Outers the way many of them feel towards migrants. I blame them for taking away our country, our jobs, our futures, our whole way of life. I blame them for removing everything I took for granted growing up, not least in terms of the choices I could make. I feel adrift in the country of my birth: I no longer recognise its values or its way of thinking. I am no longer proud to be part of it.
Closer to home, I’m struggling to work for elderly people who I know voted Out for the dodgiest of reasons, and are now reclining, well-fed and self-satisfied in their ex-council houses, telling me this won’t make any difference to them. Oh, and mentioning how glad they are that we’ll get fewer refugees now.
So I guess my challenge now is to deal with the Outers the way I feel they should have dealt with immigrants. Instead of resorting to anger and resentment, I have to find a way to move forward in love and grace. This may take me a while but the challenges to love one another and love our “enemies” remain – and indeed are more important than ever – in our broken country.
If I’d ever done anything to put a smile on the faces of the likes of Nigel Farage, Marine le Pen, Donald Trump, Geert Wilders and indeed the whole of the European far-right, I would be ashamed.
But I guess I can’t expect people to feel shame for something just because I disagree with them. We had a contest and my side lost.
I suspect many Inners are going through the classic stages of grief: shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression. We’re not yet at acceptance. We cling to the hope that the decision will be reversed, or a second vote will be held, or that no sane government would ever actually invoke Article 50 and formally commit the UK to the dark path some of its people have chosen. There MUST be a way, we think.
But I think at the end we will have to accept that the referendum was not a dress rehearsal. It was THE vote and we must live together in the new reality.
I suspect that most of us who grew up in England identified ourselves primarily as British. We never had a distinct English identity – no national dress, no national customs except binge drinking, no national day celebrations. We were proud to be British and only incidentally English.
Now we have to carve out a new identity in a world which has pre-labelled us as insular xenophobes with a drink problem.
To those elderly Outers, to all those who have accidentally or deliberately plunged our country and possibly our continent into crisis, to those few people gloating on Facebook, to those who just don’t get how we are feeling:
Be kind to us. We have just lost something precious.