The arguments have been much more vicious, more deep-felt. People have been unable to agree to disagree. It’s been far worse than an ordinary General Election. Perhaps because we’ve had our whole adult lives to get used the concept of different political parties, different viewpoints, different ways of organising a country’s budget and services – different, but not radically so. Not really.
This has been much worse. Families have fallen out. Neighbours have engaged in Poster Wars. “In” and “Out” banners have been ripped from people’s fences. Campaigners leafletting railway stations have been abused. Then a hard-working young Labour MP was shot and killed leaving her constituency surgery. Beyond awful.
So what’s been the difference? Why so much rancour and – yes – actual life-threatening violence? I think there are two key issues. Firstly we have all been slightly discomfited by being “on the same side” as our political opponents. Rabid lefties have shared David Cameron’s quotes on Facebook, and rabid right-wingers have agreed with Nicola Sturgeon and Jeremy Corbyn. That puts us all into new and unfamiliar territory.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, with age has come a degree of political maturity. Whilst I continue to disagree strongly with political opponents, deep down I do recognise (albeit grudgingly) that they want the best for their country (they are just misguided about how best to achieve that). I can understand their context, and therefore a bit of why they believe what they do. The referendum is different. The “other” lot (for me, the opposition is the “Leave” lot), are just completely and utterly wrong. Not just misguided, not just seeing a different route to a good outcome, but 100% wrong. And of course they feel exactly the same about me / us (though they are, obviously, wrong about that too!).
So we politely explain the “facts” to them. Bizarrely, they fail to be convinced. Patiently, we tell them again. Yet incomprehensibly they continue down their misguided path. Insults are thrown. Here in Spain, on dozens of “expat” Facebook groups, the battle lines have been drawn in the sand. The “Leave” lot have claimed to be acting patriotically, and have accused the “Remain” lot of voting from self-interest. The “Remains” have accused the “Leaves” of failing to understand, of taking advantage of the freedoms of movement while wishing to prevent future generations doing the same.
I doubt that any of the rancour, any of the hotly-held positions, has changed anybody’s mind. Most Brits here in Spain voted over a week ago by postal vote, so it was too late to convince anyone. But still the arguing continued. One man bellowed “But how can you be so stupid as to not GET IT?” at me a dozen times in one Facebook group.
And we will never “get it”. Because on this issue, unlike in a general election, the others are hell-bent on ruining our future. Not just for five years, but forever. We hold completely different viewpoints. There are no shades, there is simply no meeting point. And neither side can bear the idea of life under the other’s system. In normal party politics, we know we can survive when the “other lot” gets in. It won’t last forever, then it’ll be our turn again. But “Leave” or “Remain”? This is a once-in-a-lifetime decision. And it really, really matters.
So HOW can those idiots be so stupid as to NOT GET IT???
And on Friday we will know. Will the quiet majority come out and vote for the status quo? Or have we hurtled off the edge into two years of whirlwind negotiations before floating off on that tiny island, optimistically hoping for a return to those halcyon days when people believed that the “Great” in Great Britain actually meant something other than simply “a bit bigger now we’ve added Scotland”. By wanting to believe ourselves important again, have we condemned ourselves to being the sulky kid in the corner of the playground? The one nobody wants to play with? On Friday we will know. And there’ll be no turning back.
© Tamara Essex 2016 http://www.twocampos.com
A couple of you (you know who you are) put a lump in my throat after last week’s blog. Strangers to me, yet you do me the favour of reading this blog, and last week you did the favour I asked of you, and helped a family who are strangers to all of us. Thanks. Really.