I’ve thought at length about this post for days. I don’t want to take advantage of anyone’s grief. Not writing until after Thursday’s vote would be too late, writing nothing at all feels like an act of cowardice.
I don’t believe the great majority of people who want the UK to leave the EU are bad people. I think they are worried for the future, they want the best decision to give the best long-term future for themselves, their children, this country. Maybe come Thursday they will win, but I desperately hope not. I hoped not a week ago, I hope even more so now. I think their choices are wrong but I don’t think they are bad. I neither want to nor will think of them like that. One of them is my sister.
Thomas Mair may be ill, he may have acted on his own initiative. We do know he had contacts with at least one neo-Nazi organisation in the USA, and that there is photographic evidence suggesting he was directly involved with Britain First. Try as I may I can’t imagine anyone committing a similar atrocity to his and crying “Remain!”
I’m not scared of the UK leaving the EU. I’m sure it’s the wrong decision for a whole range of reasons that have been well-explained in sufficient detail many times over the past few weeks by experienced and educated individuals and organisations focused not on what they want but what are most likely the best choices for this country. Unlike Michael Gove I’m not tired of listening to the experts.
In The Women’s Room, one of Marilyn French’s characters says she’s part of ‘the lunatic fringe that gets the middle to move over a bit.’ We need to remember that movement can be in any direction, from or to the left or the right, tolerance or intolerance, green or capitalist, xenophobe or xenophile. We must remember that movement is not always a good thing. This vote isn’t just about notions of self-determination, wealth, independence, and sovereignty, it’s also one of morality. How, after this vote, will we behave towards each other and to people in other countries? How will we treat the needy and disadvantaged, the people with nothing at all?
If the result of the vote is to leave the EU then everyone who voted to leave gets what they want, what they think is best. Congratulations, you won in a free and open democratic referendum. The thing is, that other group of people, the one Thomas Mair belongs to, they’ve won too. So will Britain First, and so will UKIP, the political party that is perfectly comfortable using images almost identical to those the Nazis used in their own racist propaganda campaigns.
The unintended consequence of an exit vote is that it brings validation to the people who think like Mair and believe his methods were right and his goal reasonable. It will bring it to the members of groups like Britain First on the fringes of our politics, and to other similar people and groups beyond. They will have won. They always knew they were right. For them this is empowerment.
And it is something we are all going to have to confront. We’ll have to live with it, and so will our children. This is the lunatic fringe we will have edged a little closer to and this is what scares me.
Choose wisely on Thursday. Be careful what you wish for, people.