We did it. Somehow, an entire nation lost its mind. Or 52% of it. Or 26% of it. But however we do the maths, 100% of the UK left the EU.
I wanted to write an upbeat post, about how this was day one of the campaign to rejoin the EU. That’s who I am. I’ve always been an optimist, and at those times I could view the world in one of two ways, I’ve always aimed to choose the more empowering one.
But I’m not there yet with Brexit …
In the five stages of grief, I’m still somewhere in the middle of stage 1: denial.
Actually, I’ve been there for some time. The referendum result was a shock, but I never imagined then that we’d go through with it. It was such a self-evidently destructive path, I couldn’t believe we wouldn’t find a way out.
As things progressed, and Parliament was deadlocked (ironically by a mix of those MPs who didn’t want to leave at all and those who rejected anything bar No Deal), I felt reassured. It appeared for a long time that the only possible way out of the impasse was a second referendum.
I wasn’t taking the result of that as a foregone conclusion; 2016 taught me that lesson. But it seemed to me that, with the 2016 fantasy replaced by 2019 reality, it was a referendum we could win.
I did, however, have one more lesson to learn. The man who once adopted a Leave stance purely for the purpose of being bravely defeated was willing to carry the charade to its bitter end. I never imagined he would do that.
Perhaps he didn’t intend to. Perhaps, having achieved his ambition of seeing his portrait on the staircase wall, he hoped Labour would inherit the mess. But whether it was a second case of accidentally succeeding, or by that stage believing his own PR, the result was the same.
A strange sense of unreality
London looks the same as it did yesterday. The sun came up. The DLR still trundles past. People still scurry about in the streets. The market traders continue to sell their carrots and their scarves.
But life feels very different.
Watching the flag taken down, folded up and put away on a shelf somewhere.
Listening to two WWII veterans express their dismay at what we’ve done.
Seeing others find that upbeat tone which eludes me.
Everyone trying to find their own way to make sense of the senselessness.
And I’m one of the fortunate few. Thanks to my grandfather, I remain an EU citizen today. I will be able to continue to travel freely through Europe using an EU passport. I retain today all of the rights I had yesterday. The bureaucratic process I’d desperately hoped would prove to be a waste of time and money, wasn’t.
How strange that is. That the birthplace, one hundred and eight years ago, of a man I barely knew, should have such an impact on my own status today.
Most of my friends are not in that position. There are the Brits who do not share my more than century-old good fortune, who have had been cruelly stripped of part of their citizenship against their will. And there are those like Steph, who have made their lives here, and whose ‘settled status’ does as much to highlight their separateness as it does to guarantee their rights.
I don’t intend to complete the five stages of grief. I do not and will not accept Brexit as the final, wretched destination of my country. We changed our mind once, we can do so again. The EU has made it clear that our star will – once we are ready – be welcomed back where it belongs. There will come a time to take the first step along the road to recover that which we have lost.
That time is not, for me, today. Soon, I hope, but not today.
Johnson is right about one thing: now is a time to come together. Not, as he would have it, in quiet acquiescence of the madness, but in kindness and compassion for each other. For all of those grieving today. For all those who feel anger and dismay and depression at what we have done.
Yes, even for the 52%, as best we can. I’m not yet ready to forgive, but I will try not to respond to hatred with more of the same. That’s their thing; I won’t let it become mine. And many of them are the ones who will be hardest hit when the cold winds of reality blow through the tattered remains of the empty promises. They are victims as much as perpetrators.
Not the upbeat post I’d hoped to write. But, as with any grieving process, one day at a time.
How are you all doing out there?