A Political Interlude
You’ve probably already heard about the recent referendum that took place in the UK, asking us whether we wanted to remain a member of the EU or leave it. There were discussions taking place everywhere I went in the lead up to the vote. At work, at home, over text message with friends. I think I made my mind up the first time I heard we were having a referendum. I wanted to remain in the EU.
Bottom line: I’m European.
I believe we should be working together in Europe to maintain and improve the bridges we have so carefully built rather than tear them down and start again. All the countries in the bloc have worked so hard to become a united front and now we, the UK, have turned our back on all that.
Whilst I did hear a lot of the conversations about the EU taking place in the build up to the referendum, I rarely participated fully in them. I didn’t straight out say ‘I think we should stay’. But sometimes I wonder if I should have. I don’t know if I would have changed anyone else’s mind or not. But I wish I had had the courage to say and stand by my personal beliefs.
What has the EU done for you?
The fact of it is that the EU has had a major impact on me and my family’s life.
EU legislation held up and strengthened my mum’s right not to be dismissed from her job for having me. She worked in a male dominated environment that was used to pushing pregnant co-workers out of the workplace, and indeed had a history of doing so. But EU legislation meant she didn’t have to choose between her chosen career and a family, that she had every right to both of those things. My mum went on to do great things in her career, a career that involved serving her country. Her career took her around the world, and me with her. My childhood would have been so fundamentally different without the EU’s rulings that I can hardly imagine it. If the EU hadn’t passed it’s legislation British law at that time would not have been enough to prevent my mother’s employer from dismissing her despite all of her potential, just because she was having a child.
And what about the many, many friends and acquaintances I’ve made with the help of the EU? At university I got to meet people who had come from all over Europe to study here. My life is so much richer from having met them.
If someone asked me today what the EU has ever done for me, I have answers in spades.
I should have said something in all those EU related conversations. The least I could have done was defend the EU in some way. I owe them thanks. I owe them more than silence.
Split in the Present
Now the vote is done and the ‘United’ Kingdom is split. But not that split. The majority of people have chosen to leave, so I guess we’re leaving. Before the votes were counted a lot of the forecasts said remain would win, slightly. But it came out the other way around, of course. I had a suspicion it might. I didn’t personally know anyone but my mum who had said they would vote remain.
My best friend said she’d vote to leave, and so did my work colleagues. They told me all their arguments and I kept quiet. They tried to convince me of their side of the argument and now I wonder if I had a duty in those moments to try to convince them otherwise. Especially because what I heard time and time again was that they wanted to know why they should stay. They wanted to know what good the EU had done and would do for them. They wanted a reason to not feel the way they did and I could have helped. My reasons may not have been enough to change things for them but it could have helped.
But there’s no point dwelling too much on what I can no longer change. Also, I strongly respect democracy and ‘leave’ is the democratically chosen decision. So whilst I may not agree with the decision I do respect it.
What I want to do, moving forward, is use this as an experience to learn from. I am unhappy that I didn’t speak up before the referendum took place and I don’t want to feel like this again. The next time something like this happens I want to feel satisfied in the end that I at least had the courage to say and defend what I believe in.
I want to actively participate in important discussions and build bridges between me and others, and encourage them to build too.
“He knew that if the rest of his life was spent in building bridges, it would be no bad thing.”
–The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison