Tuesday 28 June 2016
I voted to remain in the EU last Thursday. I've always loved being part of Europe and in many ways have felt more European than British.
Nonetheless, I thought we would leave. The Leave campaign was strong, Rupert Murdoch's papers, especially The Sun, supported leaving (it seems that in this country nowadays The Sun determines all our election results) and Leave had the catchy slogans ('Let's take our country back' was a particularly powerful one) and the biggest posters. Some were huge: in the weeks leading up to the election the fields of East Sussex were dotted with vast red banners, all shouting 'Vote Leave.' As time wore on I felt increasingly alienated from my neighbours.
Last Thursday my husband Phill & I walked up to the polling office in our village's Memorial Hall. There was a long queue and lots of people smiling and looking happy. I don't know exactly how my village voted, I only know the result for Wealden district was 54.5% to leave. I believe a lot of those happy, smiling faces were looking forward to voting out.
The queue moved slowly into the hall and there above the door was a sign telling us that the place was built in the memory of those who gave their lives fighting in the two World Wars. I felt like crying. It was horrible to think that everyone who was there to vote Leave was doing so in spite of the horrors of two European wars.
On Friday morning Phill got up at five to go fishing for the weekend. I woke up too. Phill looked at his i-pad and asked me, 'Do you want to know the result? It's Leave, 51.8%'
After that I couldn't sleep. Phill and I kept hugging one another. Even though we'd expected it we still couldn't believe it had actually happened, that the people of this country had really done something so stupid. I got up and we listened to Radio 4. There were still a few votes to come in but the results were conclusive. Phill left, though we were both in shock. I told him to drive carefully, I was so worried he wouldn't be able to concentrate.
After he left I kept walking from room to room. I turned on my phone and talked to friends on Facebook, almost all of whom were stunned and horrified. Only one person crowed that we'd socked it to Cameron. I don't think he understood what he'd done. I don't know whether he understands now, I dread speaking to him about it.
Later I phoned my mother, who voted Remain. Her first words were, 'Depressing isn't it.' At least she and I were on the same side and can talk about it. My dad voted Leave. I still haven't spoken to him. I don't know what I'll say when we do speak.
Brexit has changed the way I perceive this country. I'm not sure I want to live here any longer. When I walk into the village I look at other people with mistrust and wonder who among them voted for this mess. When I speak to people for the first time since it happened I speak in code and when they ask me how I am I say, 'Oh, you know.' If they looked perplexed I know they voted to leave.
In my creative writing class yesterday one of my students, who was born in Barbados but has lived here since 1967, told me that on Saturday she heard a little boy ask his grandmother why we'd had a referendum. The woman said, 'To keep foreigners out.' The little boy pointed to my student and said, 'Is that one?' and the woman said, 'Yes.' My student said that when she first came here she had a few problems, but she hadn't had any abuse in years. She was fighting back tears as she told me.
When I got home yesterday afternoon Phill said he'd just spoken to someone whose friend, who's black and born in this country, was on the Tube at the weekend when someone told her she should go back home. I understand that not everyone who voted Leave was motivated by racism, but Nigel Farage and the Leave campaign made it acceptable for people to voice their prejudices and it's frightening to see how quickly Britain has changed as a result.
David Cameron says the result showed the will of the people, but it only showed that of just over half the people who voted. The Government could call the whole thing off, as we all now know the referendum was only advisory, but it doesn't seem to have the courage to do so.
I haven't said anything new here and I haven't even said it very well. Many people I know feel the same way and many on the Leave side think we Remainers should shut up and accept the result, but at times like these we have to nail our colours to the mast. Mine are blue and yellow.
There's a march this Saturday and another next Saturday. I hope to go to both. I've also written to my MP, asking her to vote against Brexit in Parliament. I don't know what else to do. The Leave voters may honestly believe they've taken their country back, but in doing so they've robbed me of mine.