I’ve never been much of one for poetry, as it goes. The only one I know to any degree is ‘Remember’ by Christina Rosetti because I had to study it when I did a Speaking of Verse and Prose qualification as a teenager, and completely separately my mother requested it be read at her funeral, to which I obliged.
I think the last time I wrote a poem, certainly the last one I can remember, was about the seaside where I lived. It was for a primary school assignment, so I was no more than 11. I’m now 30, so I’m hardly what you would call a prolific poet.
Anyway, this is all to say that for some reason I was inspired to write a poem tonight. Something about the juxtaposition of Guy Fieri’s unfalteringly cheery outlook and the existential dread that a large percentage of Brits are feeling right now.
I couldn’t get the format right in WordPress so I’m posting it as an image.
I give you ‘Flavortown’.
Last night I sat in my living room with my partner watching Friday Night Lights, and for the first time in nearly three years I felt really, truly, despairingly sad.
On and off for several years, I used to suffer from some pretty bad depression. This was due to a number of factors, primarily loneliness, the deaths of several close family members and my own (extremely close) brush with the Reaper back in 2005. Thankfully, for the last few years it has been pretty absent. In that sense, I feel like I am one of the lucky ones. Some people don’t get the luxury of going three minutes without feeling the crushing weight of depression, let alone three years.
But last night I had that feeling again. It took me a little by surprise, to be honest, as it has been so long, but it was unmistakable, and it was all because of the result of the EU referendum.
My partner and I stayed up and watched pretty much the whole thing, only throwing in the towel and calling it a night when David Dimbleby announced that the BBC was calling the result in favour of leave. We were in shock. Surely there was no way this could be happening? But it was, and it just goes to prove the old adage that people on the right punish the complacency of those on the left by turning up in droves to vote for what they believe in. We saw it in the last general election, we saw it again on Thursday.
Since then I’ve run a gauntlet of emotions that have mostly centered around furious anger. I was livid, and I still am, with this country -my country- for succumbing to such pig-headed xenophobia and for believing such outright, obvious lies.
I will personally be affected very heavily by this referendum. For starters I am planning a wedding to take place in the USA in August. This wedding will have to be paid for in US Dollars, which I currently do not have. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that this wedding will now cost a lot more now than it did 4 days ago when I have to change my Sterling over to Dollars.
But this isn’t why I’m mad, at least not entirely. I’m mad because I feel like a link has been severed between this country and I. It’s been some years now since I have felt even remotely close to being proud to be English. I was born in Liverpool, but spent most of my formative years living in Wales with a Welsh mother and English father, and I’ve been leaning a lot more on my Welsh heritage since I realised the implications of English nationalism.
There is a hell of a lot wrong with England and the UK in general, but at the end of the day I am still British, and for better or worse this was still my country and I understood it in a way that you can only really understand a country you grew up in.
That understanding vanished overnight on Thursday. By Friday morning I felt like I had gone through the looking glass and was in some kind of weird mirror image of my country. Even London, my adopted city of the last 5 years felt like it was a different, more sinister place. Familiar places suddenly felt jarringly unfamiliar, and I found myself looking at people on the tube and asking myself if THEY were responsible for this. I don’t know that I will ever get over that feeling.
This result has served to show me that I don’t belong in my own country anymore. I don’t feel welcome here. I recognise that this comes from a place of extraordinary privilege. I’m not Polish, or a person of colour, or Muslim. I will not be beaten up in the streets for my race or skin colour as is already happening in the wake of this monumentally appalling decision. Nonetheless, I can hear it in the back of my head as I walk down the street, a dull voice saying over and over “If you don’t agree with us you know where the door is.”
I’ve made no secret of my decision to leave the UK, made in December last year when my wonderful partner agreed that we should get married and move to the USA. That decision was made from a position of choice. We assumed, wrongly it seems, that if the experiment we conducted with moving to America went awry somehow that Britain would be a (relatively) safe option to return to. She has an Irish passport and therefore luckily will have indefinite right to remain regardless of what happens. Others are not so lucky.
Now it doesn’t seem like such a safe bet. It feels as though Britain has been given its last chance to prove it is anything other than completely fucked, and it didn’t just miss it, it blew right past it waving a Swastika flag. I feel as though I’m not leaving because I want to anymore, I feel like I’m leaving because I have to.
The bluster and lies of the leave campaign are already unravelling before their eyes. The strong economy they promised has gone down the toilet as the Pound takes the biggest single currency drop ever overnight and the UK loses its AAA credit rating. The strong negotiating position the promised has gone as the EU demands that we begin the process of leaving immediately, not at our leisure. The £350million a week for the NHS…well, surely no-one ever believed that one, right?
I’m genuinely worried that in 5 years time if we do decide that the USA isn’t for us that there will be no Britain left to return to. Even if there is, will I feel enough of a bond to want to come back? I love my family and I love my friends, but I worry that I’ll feel such resentment that it’ll override my desire to even come back and see them regularly.
I’ve tried to avoid saying too much on how I feel about the leave voters. I understand that people who voted leave aren’t stupid for doing so, even if I did say as much in anger a couple of times on Friday morning. Many of them, the Boris Johnsons, Rupert Murdochs and Nigel Farages of this world are far from stupid. They are cold, manipulative, highly intelligent racists and xenophobes that will manipulate millions of people, many of whom have been disenfranchised by the institutions they represent, to further their own personal gains.
I also recognise that not everyone who voted leave is racist. There are a whole bunch of good reasons to leave the European Union, they just don’t outweigh the reasons to stay. For a while there was even a more balanced left wing case for leaving that vanished when Jeremy Corbyn switched allegiances to Remain. However, the Leave campaign has been run on a platform of bald-faced xenophobia. Even the Remain campaign was talking about what to do about immigration. The whole campaign has been one giant, racist, scaremongering clusterfuck.
Any vote to leave has to come with the implicit understanding that even if you did not vote leave for racist reasons, you are willingly voting for a policy that will categorically lead to mass xenophobia and racist violence. This has already been proved by the attacks around the country. You are responsible for this. You made this happen, and that is just as bad.
I’m sick of the narrative that the losers should take it on the chin, reconcile with those who fucked their futures, those who have caused so many people to live in fear of their lives because of the colour of their skin or where they happened to be born. Fuck that. Do you really think that if Remain had won that Farage and company wouldn’t be kicking up the almightiest stink ever? I’m angry. I’m furious. I’m not going to forgive, I’m not going to forget, and I’m not going to kiss and make up with these people.
This is why I’m sad. I’m sad because hate and fear won, and it has cut me off from Britain in a way that can’t be fixed. To feel irreparably severed from your country, even if it is full of bigots, is very jarring indeed.
There’s nothing left for me here.