The recent EU referendum news and the immediate economic impact on the UK has filled many ‘Remain’ people with despair and anger. It has also left many ‘Leave’ people with foreboding and uncertainty; or at least, it has buttressed this same foreboding and uncertainty of the more skeptical and ambivalent ‘Out’ voters.
I do not think it should be a controversial point that many in both ‘Leave’ and ‘Remain’ have behaved appallingly. To call it a pantomime, or mere juvenile schoolboy antics, would be to utterly trivialize the sheer vitriol, hatred, resentment and withering condescension of substantial portions of both sides.
To many supporting ‘Remain,’ those voting for ‘Leave,’ are merely knuckledragging plebs and racists. The insidious and undemocratic narrative of ‘why should we let stupid people vote?’ and ‘the ignorant sheeple don’t know their objective interests’ has only been buttressed by a one-sided media focus on ‘buyer’s regrets’ among a presumably far from representative sample of ‘Leave’ voters.
But what of those supporting ‘Leave?’ The latter campaign has been largely characterized by explicit and implicit racism, by hostility to immigrants, by LGBTphobia, ableism and misogyny. Just as some noblesse oblige-ridden ‘Remain’ supporters have claimed that ‘there are no arguments for a Brexit,’ some ‘Leave’ campaigners & ideologues similarly deny that ‘Remain’ has any conceivable rationale whatsoever.
The referendum result is now a fact. Those of us in the UK who voted for the UK to stay in Europe and to leave the EU, will have to be aware of the threat of the reactionary hard right, who have already played a substantial role in the road to Brexit.
Nuance has already been lacking from the debate. There is nothing intrinsically left-wing or right-wing about voting Leave or Remain.
Voting Remain does not mean you hate the UK.
Voting Leave does not mean you hate Europe.
The idea that everyone who votes Leave wants to ‘leave Europe’ is misleading.
The idea that everyone who votes Remain wants to ‘destroy Britain’ is misleading.
But voting for ‘Leave’ with a skeptical eye, while reasonable enough in terms of one’s own referendum decision, does not legitimize carelessness after the fact. Critical skepticism must be retained, and further developed and propagated and buttressed.
How can the UK move forward to a brighter future, and keep the forces of antisemitism and other bigotries in check?
There are no easy answers, and certainly no ‘solutions’ as such. If it were possible to solve hatred, it would probably have been solved a long time ago. But surely it is possible to strive to hold back the tide of racism against Jews and against many other people?
At this time, I think everyone in the UK should be mindful and vigilant in everyday life, no matter who we are.
Secondly, those of us with a larger ‘voice’ than other, such as politicians, journalists, scholars and artists, should be especially watchful over our words: not just what we say, but what we don’t say…
And given the subtlety of antisemitism, close attention to what we may be reasonably taken as implying is also of extreme importance.
Finally, I would like to see politicians in the UK & Israel speak at length about how the decision may affect our relations. I would not wish to patronize people in Israel by saying that we have a ‘special relationship.’ I prefer to say, rather, that our links are close, and also meaningful; this is no mere diplomacy of convenience, regardless of what one-sided critics of Israel may insinuate.
It is unclear at this point what will result from the EU referendum. But people in the UK, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, must ensure that we are leaping into the world in all its glory and abundance and vitality and terror; and not shrinking into our nationalist and ethnocentric ‘man cave’ of sullen ressentiment and bitterness.