Thursday, 19 May 2016

You. We hate YOU.

So, some of you might know that Britain is soon to have a referendum to see if they want to stay within the European Union or leave it. 

I have resisted talking about it so far, partly because Britain leaving the EU is actually something quite painful to contemplate, but mostly because the entire "Vote Leave" campaign seems to consist of chanting "Britain! Britain! Britain!" and hope that it somehow constitutes a valid argument.

It doesn't. And therefore it does not require a counter-argument. Unless I am prepared to start shouting "EU! EU! EU!" back, but so far my self-respect has held.

Also, as before, this is something that would impact my life immensely, but in which I do not get a say. 

I am following closely though, for obvious reasons. I may have to ask for a visa all of a sudden (I bet they are going to LOVE the self-employed/stay-at-home mum label, it screams "worthwhile migrant" to cash-obsessed officials), or somehow find £45,000 per year or be deported back to France, because even the Singh Route would then be closed, and my husband is not yet earning enough money to be allowed a foreign wife and bi-national children. 

I have to contemplate the break-up of my family, simply because people are chanting "Britain! Big! Winner! Boo foreigners!" and somehow gathering a following in doing so.

Do I sound angry? Well, angry does not begin to cover it.

I remember talking with a Scottish friend about the Scottish referendum, and how he said that many of the arguments of the English in that case were emotional and personal, rather than engaging with the very real issues. To which I answered that if Britain voted to leave the EU, I too would have a very hard time not taking it personally.

And I think  therein lies the issue. There are very real problems at work, but make no mistake, it is also deeply, intrinsically, personal

Because people I know who are willing to vote "Leave" would also be the one marvelling at how exotic my bilingual children are, they are the ones who would scream "Migrants go home!" but then say "Not you, Isabelle, you're alright, you speak English/you make Pimm's at the start of the Test Match season, you can stay! We mean them!"

One hateful article I will not link to was calling for the government to apologise to every parent whose nursery place had been stolen by "Piotrs", and every woman who had to wait for a spot in the labour suite "swarmed" by "Svetlanas". And at first I was deeply hurt. Here was a woman who I had never met, but she was calling for my children to be turned away from school. She thought the coming into the world of my beautiful, unique, specific boys was cause for someone to apologise.

But if I met the author personally, chatted with her, introduced her to the boys, joked with her about the three-day-long English summer, I'm pretty sure even she would make an exception. Not you Isabelle, of course, you're alright.

And I'd wager there aren't many "Piotrs" who wouldn't find a single English person willing to make an exception for them. Not you Piotr, you're good fun at the pub, we mean them.

Very rarely do we hate specific people we know because they are part of a group. Very often we hate the anonymous "swarm". The picture in our mind's eye of crawling, scowling, overtaking and ill-defined "foreigners".

As always, evil comes when we deprive people of their humanity, when we refuse the personal encounter. I would like the English people I know to remember that, because when you vote "Leave", you will not be making an abstract statement against a vague swarm that you think caused all your problems. You will be specifically saying "You, Isabelle, Jude and Gabriel, you are not welcome here."


  1. In one of my on-line forums, one of the women posted: One of the funniest things I ever learnt was that the Welsh word “saesnig” (and the Scots word ‘sassenach’), used to denote the English, literally means, “not us, them over there”.
    The reason it’s so funny is that the english word “Welsh”, used to denote, er, the Welsh, literally means “not us, them over there”!!

    Let's hope and pray that someday we'll all realize that all of us are "here". We're all in this together, and if any man's death diminishes me, so does any man's hunger, and every mother's tears for her children. We'll never solve all the problems, but we'll get closer if we can just learn to think of others as people just like us, rather than as somehow different.

  2. Isabelle, thank you for sharing your thoughts on this! As an American who does a very poor job keeping up with the local news-not to mention international news-I had no idea that this is happening! Be assured that I will be praying for the voters, as well as for you (feeling that helpless in such a pivotal time would be awful). I really, really love how you bring the issue down to the human person and call us on to recognize the humanity in each other. It is so easy to hide behind legislation or broad principles and make big decisions, while simultaneously ignoring how they actually affect each individual person. Thank you for this reminder!