In a week where we have been left flabbergasted by selfishness on a huge scale, I finally got around to some unselfish sewing – making a man-garment. It was The Boy’s birthday and I’d promised myself (and him) that I’d finally step out of my comfort-zone of not-too-fitted woman’s clothes and make him something a bit bigger than a bow tie.
However, in the middle of the sewing process something momentous happened in the country of my birth that I found myself pressing with shaking hands and try to thread the sewing machine through a blur of tears. This is not a political blog and I try and keep my political leanings to one side here, so please excuse this slip and believe me when I say that this issue is of such importance to me that I can’t let pass without a short reflection:
Just over a week ago, many of my generation were left shocked and horrified at the thoughtlessness of an older generation who, despite having had the best that Britain had to offer – free university educations, low house prices, good pensions, early retirement – voted in their droves to deprive their children and grandchildren of the freedoms that a united Europe provide, that they themselves had taken full advantage of, such as the ability to work and holiday freely in other European countries such as Germany, France, Austria and Spain.
There are many that say that their leave vote was a protest vote, that they never really expected it to go through (and indeed we saw the leaders of the Leave campaign hurriedly retract their main promises barely 24 hours after the results came through). But I’m not sure if this excuses such a reckless gamble with the futures of younger generations when it was based on little more than nostalgia for Britain in a world that was vastly different to the one we now live in. An unwillingness to let go of a world that no longer exists and look to the future that could be built by current and future generations that still have so much to give.
As young adults we like to think that we’re independent from our parents and the adults that saw us through our formative years, and that we no longer need to look outside ourselves for the wisdom that life experience brings; but if the last week has taught me anything, it’s that I had felt secure in the knowledge that I could rely on the values and lessons that I learned from those adults: the people from whom I learned Christian values of love for others, generosity, unselfishness. Some of the very values that were lost in the bitter campaign of fear, hatred that they succumbed to.
That feeling of security has come crashing down around me; and as the country that I grew up loving seems to disappear under a swell of race-related hate crime and terrifying uncertainty I’m left in (thankfully) another country wondering if there’s anything left of what I left behind three and a bit years ago. It doesn’t feel like the country I grew up in. I don’t recognise it any more.
I saw an article in the Guardian today titled “Poll reveals young remain voters reduced to tears by Brexit result” and I wondered why anyone found this surprising. Quite aside from the loss of freedoms and rights for our futures that the EU had provided, the knowledge that the people you have always looked to for security were complicit in creating this world has been a terrible shock.
It’s taken me more than a week to bring myself to write this. For the first few days the horror of what my country had become kept crashing over me in waves, but it’s less raw now, and I’m able to be a bit more measured about it. I realise that it’s not the end of the world or even of the world as we know it. I don’t know what is going to happen (no-one does) but I know it won’t be Armageddon. I suspect that Britain will continue to be a country with more freedoms than many in this world, but it’s going to take me a while to get over the betrayal. Forgiveness will come, I hope, but it’s going to take some time.