I wrote something a few weeks ago about the EU. It was late, the time I usually get the urge to write. The next morning, I had second thoughts. I don’t want to be political. I don’t want to alienate people. I don’t want to make it personal. I decided against it.
But after what happened yesterday, I feel a bit different. I can honestly say that I feel sad, angry, scared, frustrated and downright impotent. I was always concerned that this country of ours might vote to leave the EU, but I always finished my thought with, ‘but that won’t ever happen’. When I woke up at 3am on Friday morning and heard Farage making his victory speech before the official results had even been announced I was too scared to go back to sleep. I cried on and off until the rest of the house woke up, and then I cried again, from shock mainly. And the sudden realisation that actually, yes, this is personal. Nigel said this was a victory for ordinary and decent people. Well, what does that make me then?
So, I’m not going to have a rant. I’m not an expert. I have already read numerous, brilliantly written articles expressing exactly how I feel and more about the nightmare that I woke up to yesterday. I know how I feel and how I will always feel. But I have decided that I would like to share what I wrote 2 weeks ago. Perhaps, luckily, hardly anyone reads this anyway. But I would like my feelings to be out there should anyone wish to see it…
2 weeks ago:
I hesitate when I think about how to describe my national identity. I am British and I am white. But this is not enough of a statement for me.
Like many other people in the UK, my sister and I are the product of two people who cannot trace their name back through multiple generations. My Mum came to the UK from Denmark in the 60’s and got a job as an au pair. My Dad, a child of Jewish parents, whose own parents had arrived in London escaping persecution from Eastern Europe in the early 1900’s, was born and raised in Hackney in East London. He met my Mum and the rest, as they say is history. I am devastatingly proud of my Danish/East London/Jewish roots. It’s an interesting combination.
Essentially though, to everyday life, and in my role as ‘me’, this is irrelevant as I am just a British person who grew up in a North London suburb.
Now that I have children of my own, preserving some connection to my Danish/Jewish heritage is one of my goals in life. I am sadly aware that with each generation it will be diluted further and further. Their sense of belonging to a wider more far reaching community might be completely lost if we leave the EU.
When I think about what makes me, I have to come to the conclusion that it’s complicated. The main thing I think is that I am bloody grateful that I was born in Britain, and perhaps more specifically, in London, and that I am British. And the reason I think that is because I am the sum of many parts that are definitely not British. This nation comprised of so many other nations. This place that for whatever reasons has allowed people from other nations to settle here, shaping a society and a culture that is unlike any other. How lucky is that?
I don’t belong anywhere else. I love that I am a Londoner. But I have this invisible cord that ties me to other places, other cultures, other philosophies. And I can see how they make the country I live in such a potentially wonderful place.
The glow of pride I feel every time someone praises Danish design, or raves about a Danish crime drama is ridiculous! I am grateful for my crafty crochet/knitting gene, and for my pickled herring and snaps gene and for my love of cosy but minimalist interior design gene! Equally, I am proud of my Jewish heritage and its Eastern European influence on me, the fatalistic, unique sense of humour, the connection I feel to East London, love of pickles, chicken soup and chopped liver!
And more than any of that, the pride I feel when I tell people that I am from London surpasses all of those things. It all sounds very flouncy I know, but the diversity of it all is a precious precious thing.
Perhaps now, what is important to me is knowing that my children will be given the opportunity to perhaps forge their own unique dynasties comprising multiple cultures and experiences, or at least mix with and live alongside them. I hope they will anyway. Perhaps, if things change for us as Europeans, we will have to find a new place to settle where that kind of freedom and inclusiveness will still be available to them.
So, that was 2 weeks ago. What a difference an EU referendum makes. What about today, Saturday 25th June 2016? Suddenly Britain feels like a different, less diverse, less tolerant prospect.
I guess I would have to say that if you asked me right now how I would describe myself, I would say that I would like to stand up and be counted as a European first and foremost, and, from now on I am proud to call myself an immigrant citizen of London.
Finally I want to end with a quote from my incredibly sensitive and intelligent 9 year old son, who when asked about his thoughts on the UK leaving the EU said the following:
“A lot of people are living in the past. We are a tiny island in a massive world. We haven’t got an Empire any more; it’s not the same. We aren’t as powerful as we think we are.”