They say you should never talk about politics or religion, and for the most part, I try to stick to that rule.
I kept silent (here on the blog, at least) throughout the Scottish Independence Referendum, for instance: not because I didn’t have strong feelings about it, but because I found the endless arguing exhausting. No one ever changes their minds during those arguments. Not once did I hear someone say, “You know, you might have a point there…” or anything even remotely like it. I did, however, see a lot of friendships ruined, and a lot of people being attacked for their views, and that was enough to persuade me to keep my opinions to myself – or to share them only with the people I trusted not to attack me for them.
Today, though, I’m going to talk a bit about politics – and yeah, I’m going to illustrate it with a photo of cupcakes, because I’m writing this on my laptop, and it’s the only photo I have handy. Those cupcakes, though, are actually a pretty good way into this post, now I come to think about it.
Terry and I bought them yesterday afternoon, on a rainy day in Glasgow, where all anyone could talk about was the EU Referendum. Everywhere we went, I overheard snatches of conversation, and they all seemed to revolve around the same theme: shock. Total and utter shock.
On the way back to the car, we passed by a cupcake stand, and saw that all of the products had been reduced in price. “It’s to try to cheer people up,” the stallholder explained, as she wrapped them up for us. “After the referendum, you know?”
What struck me about this – other than the fact that the cakes were delicious, obviously – was how willing this woman was to talk to two complete strangers about her views: to tell us she was devastated by the result, and to assume that we would probably feel the same. We did, as it happens, and I figured that if someone I don’t even know can be “brave” enough to share her opinion without worrying about being attacked for it, I can probably do the same. So here goes…
I voted to remain in the European Union for the same reason I voted for Scotland to remain part of the UK in the Scottish referendum: because there’s a great big world out there, and it seems incomprehensible to me to want to box ourselves into one little corner of it – to put up barriers to the outside world, and to work on emphasising the differences between people, rather than the similarities. That’s never made sense to me, and it makes even less sense now, in the wake of this week’s vote.
My husband is a first-generation Scot, born to Greek immigrant parents. I have one brother-in-law who moved here from Greece, to marry his Scottish wife, and another who made the move in the opposite direction, going from Scotland to Athens. I have a third brother-in-law who moved to the south of England, an aunt and uncle who emigrated to Canada, and countless other friends and relatives who saw the world as their oyster, and decided to make the most of it.
Even here, in my tiny village in central Scotland, I have neighbours from China, Africa, Pakistan, Ireland and England – and those are just the ones I know. I don’t consider this country to be “mine” any more than it is theirs, just because I happened to be born here, and I also don’t believe that just because I was born here, that this is where I should remain. I’ve always dreamt of living abroad: of one day buying a house somewhere warm, and running my business from there. The UK’s membership of the European Union made that dream a real possibility: now I don’t know if it will ever happen.
My point, here?
There’s a great big world out there, and it’s full of possibilities – or it should be.
I’m not saying there are no issues with immigration (or with anything else, for that matter): there very obviously are, and those issues desperately need to be addressed. I don’t have all the answers – but I somehow don’t think we’ll find them by NOT working together. So this morning I feel sad that this is what it’s come to. Sad, and honestly a little bit scared: because right now it feels to me like the world just got a little bit smaller – and I suspect it’ll take more than a few cupcakes to me feel even remotely OK about that.
(They were really nice cupcakes, though…)