Thursday, 23 June 2016

Sick to my stomach

Anyone who doesn't suffer from anxiety may not understand this. But I actually feel sick and tearful today, because of this referendum. I am genuinely distressed about the possible outcome, not just because I care passionately about the issues at stake, but because I hate what this campaign has done to the political and social landscape of the country.

I've seen banners strung across the motorway bridge with a silhouette of a WWII plane and the phrase "Shoot Junkers Down".

I've seen lies, and racism and vitriol.

I've seen friends turning on each other as their political views diverge.

I've read and heard verbal abuse.

I've seen threats and vandalism.

I've read the heartfelt words of a man whose wife was murdered as she represented the people of this country.

And it scares me.

It scares me that no matter what the outcome of this referendum, the country has been riven by acrimony. We have been driven to bitter and deep distrust of each other, of our neighbours, of our politicians. As things stand, somewhere close to 50% of the population are going to be angry, disappointed or feel betrayed by what will seem like a failure to make their voices heard. 

And I can't imagine the genie being put back in its bottle. Tempers, emotions and convictions are inflamed, and having been inflamed, what will calm them? How will the rage and hatred I've heard and seen be quelled? How will passionate believers in the EU behave if they feel as though their future has been irrevocably changed for the worse? How will fervent supporters of an independent UK react if they feel as though their independence has been betrayed? Will we actually return to being a civil, respectful society who stop calling each liars and traitors? Will the racists who've been given license by the naked hatred on display retreat?

This is not like any general election I have ever participated in. There is no way in which even if your side doesn't win, at least they'll have some representation in the future. At present Labour, Lib-Dem, Green and SNP politicians represent their constituents, even under a Conservative majority parliament. If 51% vote "Out", that's not 51% of the country leaving the EU, it's the whole kit and caboodle. And that very sense of all-or-nothing seems to me to have had an impact on the tone of the opinions expressed. Each side knows they have everything to lose, or everything to gain. There is no reassurance that we get to vote again in five years time if things aren't going well for the country. There is nobody to hold to account if it turns out we made a poor decision. We can only blame each other. And that scares me.

I was about to publish this, when I stumbled upon someone expressing the same feelings as me, that seemed worth sharing. And she gets to the heart of it. I am afraid. Not of immigrants, not of the EU, not of the financial ups and downs that may lie ahead. I am afraid of what we have become and what we may become. 

No matter what tomorrow morning brings, I hope we can weave our country back together with tolerance, respect and humility. 

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