By: Michaell Lange
London, 31/01/20 –
It’s a hard way to celebrate democracy. But, it’s democracy nevertheless, and democracy should always be celebrated. However, this claim has been in conflict in my mind for the past three years. Not because I think there might be times when it should be stopped. No. Never! But, because there might be times when democracy, the will of the people, means, partition, separation, isolation and possible, self-harm, and in those cases, I accept democracy without celebration.
Today is a day that will be remembered as the day Britain left the European Union. It feels sad, strange. It feels like I lost part of my young (but noble) British identity though, many others will think they have their identity back.
My mother’s family went to Brazil from Italy in the 1880s, and my father’s family went to Brazil from Germany in the same period. I came to Britain in 2002. I speak Portuguese and English, and since 2014 I’m proudly, British. I also have two kids, born here. This is me. This is who I am. I am very proud of my roots. It’s part of my history which, cannot be denied. Still, it feels like my Britishness has been somehow, wounded by Brexit. Since I came to London, I have never been so influenced by any other culture. The kindness and politeness of the people. The incredible sense of justice and democracy I can’t find anywhere else. The core values and principles I’ve learned and adopted as my own. Marvels of human society I have the privilege to be part of. Virtues I cherish and pledge to defend. Righteousness I will pass through to my beloved sons. No other country gave me so much. It is a true honour to be British.
Then, Brexit happened, and all hell broke loose. For three years since Brexit, we have experienced hate in a way most of us have never experienced before. For three years, we have hated each other so much. Division, polarity, suspicious, racism, discrimination, nationalism, populism, hate. The worst of human society unleashed upon ourselves, endorsed by irresponsible and opportunist leaders, politicians and the media from right to left.
To me, it felt like being kicked in the teeth by my biggest hero. I was so welcomed and accepted here, I quickly integrated and became part of Britain. I dived deep into Britishness. I even became obsessed with the weather. Then, almost overnight, everything changed. I felt refused, rejected and denied by the people that until the day before, were my own people, my own country. The celebrations didn’t help the feeling of betrayal. I understood for the first time, the hurtful feeling of racism, and the anger it generates.
For three years, all I had learned and adopted about British values were tested to the limit. Never in my life had I exercised so much of my sense of tolerance, to the point where I recreate my own concept of tolerance in order to protect my sanity. It was hard to listen to people crying on the radio, afraid of what was to come. Fear, is one of the worst feelings of human kind. I remember vividly a call to LBC radio from a German woman claiming that after 40 years living in Britain, her friends and neighbours refused to speak to her. It was just one of many somber experience we had to live through since Brexit. People that have lived through the horrors of Nazism and Holocaust, suddenly found themselves in a similar situation prior to that suffered by the Jews in the 1930-40s. Hate crime skyrocketed together with nationalist sentiment.
I struggled to make sense of what was happening right in front of my eyes. I think my skills acquired through my degree on International Relations and Politics, helped to keep me away from the traps of rhetoric and accusations. It’s important to understand that Brexit unearthed historical facts that unites Europe, but also keep us apart. If we understand that, we can start to understand the views of those who voted to leave the EU. It doesn’t make it right, but it’s a start. I love Europe, but I also love democracy. Reconciliation with these two things, is my goal. Europe cannot go back to the times when it hated itself. We must stay together, even when Brexit means exactly the opposite.
Brexit is the biggest opportunity to learn about ourselves since World War Two. With the benefit of having no concentration camp or bombs exploding over our heads. However, there is no grounds for complacency here. We must learn with the horrors of the past to stop it from happening in the future.
So, today, as we leave the European Union, we have the opportunity to look forward with optimism and reconciliation with ourselves, and our common values. No matter how disgraceful Nigel Ferage’s behaviour in the European Parliament was. We have the power to make our society through our daily atitude towards each other. We, as individuals, have the responsibility to push through this period of crises by exercising the values which, are the foundation of this incredible society, to make sure future generations can continue to enjoy all the benefits of peace and prosperity. It’s a hard way to celebrate democracy, but it’s democracy nevertheless, and democracy should always be celebrated. Good Luck Britain! Good Luck Europe!