I woke up yesterday morning and rolled over in bed, sure to turn on my phone and see a landslide for the ‘In’ campaign, and head straight back to sleep to dream of Belgian chocolate, German beer and Spanish sangria. Instead, I sat up in bed to hear the news I was dreading, not sure if I was dreaming or not.
I’m angry and quite a bit heartbroken. Not just for me. For people like Katy, who wouldn’t be where she is today without the support of the EU. For people like Jayne, who recently bravely upped sticks and moved within the EU to give herself a better and happier life. For people like my Polish friend who’s spent most of her life living, learning and working in our country and has been driven to crowdfunding to help her afford citizenship, for my Portugese friend who came here barely speaking a word of English and has just completed his degree here.
All of these people who contribute so much to our economies and the wider EU and global society are broken and scared right now. Not to mention my boyfriend, whose job will be severely effected by the EU. Or my friends in Cornwall who have studied for years to be part of the NHS and voted to stay, knowing the effect a withdrawal of EU funding could have on them. For my many friends in the arts and music industries, whose careers doing something that they love and that has a huge impact on the happiness of others.
We have a right to be angry. To be disappointed and disillusioned. Those are the things that get things done – without them, the status quo would never change. But anger is different from hate. A major reason a large portion of ‘Leave’ voters chose the outcome they did isn’t necessarily down to ignorance or stupidity, but because our Government have let them down.
You may call an elderly lady who wants ‘the immigrants out’ because she ‘can’t get a doctor’s appointment’ simply racist. But ‘immigrants’, who contribute to our economy and services just as much as anyone born here does, aren’t the real reason for this – they’ve just become scapegoats, through biased media and scaremongering. Sure, there’s plenty of racism and xenophobia going round in our country right now. But at the bottom of all this? It’s because those people are scared for themselves, their families and their futures – just like those of us who voted ‘Remain’ are right now.
I’m also totally aware that there are people out there with informed opinions that made the choice to leave, for their own well thought out reasons. I may not agree with you, but I have total respect for anyone who made their decision with conscience and knowledge. But I’m also aware that there are people out there who’ve made their choices based on spin, lies and a general lack of understanding. As much as I initially felt angry at them, I’ve come to realise – being misinformed and unaware isn’t always their fault – instead, we should look to why they don’t access the information, why they don’t look at it judgementally and why they’re ‘sick’ of ‘experts’. I’m lucky to live in a city with a lot of wised-up people around me – but for those in small towns, politics isn’t something that tends to be well-discussed. But for those living in small towns and far from London, arguments from the Remain campaign that focused on large-scale economy just aren’t relevant – and I feel the campaign did a poor job of making those people aware of how this will trickle down and directly affect them and their communities.
The one good thing to come out of this referendum for me? The fact that more young people have been involving themselves in the world of politics. I’ve walked past countless groups of people my age and younger, some still in school uniforms yesterday, talking about what this means to them and their futures. I have to admit, I’m not always the most vocal or politically involved – I do my research, share my opinion where necessary and always cast my vote. But I want to do more than that. I want to be able to inform others and share in real discussion. Basically, I want to be more active in changing the world we live in. (If you have some suggestions of good ways I can do this, please do pop them in the comments.)
Today, I put some lipstick and a smile on and went into showery Central London to celebrate Pride 2016. The contrast between yesterday and today in London was staggering. Yesterday, it felt like a fog of disappointment had fallen over the city – today, it was filled with colours and rainbows and happiness. Human beings (and plenty of adorable dogs) of all genders, races, ages, sexualities and walks of life came together to celebrate one of the most simple things in humanity. Love. After the horrific events in Orlando, it felt more poignant than ever to embrace our LGBT+ community and the feeling of jubilance and celebration I felt radiating around me at Trafalgar Square almost made me shed a tear.
I may be struggling to find pride in being British right now, but I’m feeling incredibly proud to be a Londoner and a human being. Because among the bad eggs in their ivory political towers and those with pure self-interest at heart, there are a lot of us out there, and most are bloody wonderful. To anyone who feels pushed out of our country or any area of society, be that from the EU referendum, homophobia, xenophobia or any other reason, I’m with you. And so is everyone who came together today to celebrate humanity.
I feel like despite how rubbish things may feel right now, as long as we’ve got that, we’re gonna be alright.