I’ve heard it said a lot by people that they want out of Europe, because they want their country back. Well, on this, especially after the events of yesterday, I have to agree – I too want my country back. But the country that I want back is not the same as the one that a lot of loud, angry people seem to want back.
I do not want back the “great” Britain that was the head of an empire, when Britannia ruled the waves. That country’s “greatness” was built on slavery and exploitation, and existed only to serve the wealthy elite.
I don’t want to take my country back from an unelected, unaccountable ruling body. Because European MPs *are* elected, and *are* accountable. Europe doesn’t always do exactly what we want, but that’s the point of living in an actual democracy. We’re not beholden to the whims of a faceless body, we’re actually compromising, and doing what’s best for everyone. Because that’s what grown-up, responsible countries do – negotiate and compromise with dignity. They don’t whine childishly and take their ball home when they don’t get exactly their own way. Because they’re not the only country in the world.
I don’t want a country that denies responsibility for its own actions, that blames everything on the weak and vulnerable, that demonises the Other because that’s easier than owning up to their own mistakes and taking accountability.
I don’t want a country where elected officials can brazenly lie to the public, and attempt to manipulate them through fear and hatred. And I don’t want a country where the populace will allow that to happen. I don’t want a country where we turn our backs on those that are in need, where we are blind to the fact we are swallowing exactly the same hateful lies that not long ago we were fighting against ourselves, that we were indeed “great” for standing against.
I don’t want a country where self-serving, ill informed racists are repeatedly given a platform to express their damaging views. I don’t want a country where the Mail and the Sun can use the sufferings of those affected by situations out of their control, by acts that in many cases we ourselves were responsible for, to stir up an atmosphere of hatred to further their own financial and political interests. And who then refuse to acknowledge their complicity when action is taken as a result of the frenzy of hatred that they’ve inspired. I don’t want a country where those publications can then attempt to blame the consequences of their own actions on the vulnerable. I don’t want a country where Nigel Farage can print posters of refugees desperately seeking help and use that to further his own goals by promoting the fear of the foreigner. I don’t want a country that nods along in blind, entitled agreement when the media and politicians start using the very rhetoric that was used in Nazi Germany and which lead to the suffering of millions.
And I don’t want to live in a country that stands by and allows all that to happen, in the blinkered belief that all that is in the past, forgetting the lessons that we learned from the atrocities of the past, believing that what happened in Nazi Germany will never happen here. Because our country has the word “great” in its name, and that somehow entitles us to special treatment, something more.
Because it’s not great here. It’s terrible. And terrible things ARE happening here. Because yesterday a public servant was murdered for daring to stand up and say that no, we will not turn our backs on those in need, we will not give in to hatred, and that we will open our doors and our arms and celebrate our difference. I do not want to live in a country where someone can be killed for saying something that we, as educated, decent, privileged human beings SHOULD HAVE BEEN SAYING IN THE FIRST DAMNED PLACE.
So you’re damned right I want my country back. I want back the country that embraces its diverse roots. I want back the country that cared about its citizens, young or old, rich or poor, strong or weak.
I want back the country that realised, in the face of the worst conflict ever, that we are all equal and that all lives are precious. That it is our duty to care for each other, regardless of race, colour, wealth or circumstances of birth. I want back the country that decided to build a national health service, that decided that wealth was better when shared with everyone, that wealth could and should work for the good of everyone. I want back the country that realised that there was more to this life than selfish entitlement.
I want back a country that acts with compassion. Which does not stigmatise those that look or sound different, and those that are in need. I want back the country that understands that people are still people, no matter how different they may seem.
My desire for this country to return and the fear of what was actually happening is what inspired me to join the Green party. Out of horror at the right wing bile that was becoming common place. Out of despair that we had become a country that was willing to spend money on wars and the rich, but was not willing to spend money on helping those that needed it most. Out of fear that my country was going to become the very thing that it became yesterday.
And that’s why I’ll remain active, and why I’ll keep fighting. Because I know that we are better than this. I know that we all have the capacity to act based on facts, not rhetoric, and to act from a place of compassion and love, not greed and fear.
So yeah, you’re damned right – I want my country back.
But really, it’s not my country. It’s not your country either. It never was. It’s OUR country. It belongs to everyone that lives here, to everyone that needs it. We need to work together to make it so, and to make this place something we can truly be proud of.