What have we let happen? If you are British and haven’t asked yourself that question within the last few days then I have serious concerns about your state of mind. If you think I am talking about us leaving the EU then you would be mistaken. While I do have some major concerns about the UK jumping ship without any sort of lifejacket, I feel that the biggest mistake we have made was not understanding the consequences of our actions prior to the referendum result. How could so few people comprehend that such a divisive and underdeveloped process of democracy would lead to nationalistic xenophobic hatred spreading through our streets.
Throughout all of the campaigning prior to the EU referendum we have seen our political system devolve into a very basic ‘us vs. them’ scenario. The foundations of unity that have taken decades to be built up have been eroded by endless waves of division. No matter which side you stood for it was driven home time after time that fifty percent of the electorate was against you. To be told that fifty percent of the people around you are practically your enemies is both terrifying and shortsighted. The referendum widened divides throughout the nation and burnt bridges that had once stood firm, yet somehow it was expected that we would re-unite on common ground following the result. The more you pick at a wound the slower it heals, and these wounds have been positively torn open and infected.
Democracy is a system that many people believe in, myself included, but to simplify it to the extent that majority rule always wins regardless of the consequences leaves gaping holes in the justice and security democracy is supposed to provide. Why we have accepted that the terms of such an enormous decision should fall upon whichever side crossed a fifty percent threshold I will never truly understand. Offering only two choices on such a complex issue to the entire nation has proven why democracy without informed representation leads to regrettable decisions. Worse than that however, these two choices offered racists a chance to stand on the same platform as established politicians and half of the electorate. Oversimplified democracy has facilitated a monstrous force.
Whether you blame the results of the referendum on widespread anti-intellectualism, or believe that we would have been better served by facts minus fear, none of it particularly matters at this point. What matters most is that our nation has given a perceived mandate to racists and bigots around Britain. The effects of this have been felt only days after the vote, and countless people who view their skin colour and place of birth as a reason to devalue, reject, and abuse others have gained more comfort in their prejudices than they have ever had before. Now they know 51.9% of voters wanted to leave as well, and when a campaign only has two sides, a statement such as ‘Out’ can mean whatever you want. It doesn’t matter if people only voted ‘out’ of the EU, because that platform also enables others to tell anyone remotely foreign to ‘get out’.
I am scared for Britain. Even with the privileges I have in life I am scared, and that makes me even more fearful for people who are not white, British, straight, male, or none of the above. I hope we can find some way to rebuild the burnt bridges, and to sew up these wounds. If I felt a divine power could help us now I would pray that the people of this nation, politicians included, find some way to silence hatred and spread a message of unity and hope instead. But, when people feel scared to leave their houses, and racial slurs are being written on walls, I feel as if hope and prayer will not be enough. Instead, we need to stand up, speak clearly, and make it known that fear and hatred will never have a place here.