A Small Divided Island on the Edge of Europe
One of the things we got to do we moved back from the US to the UK was to introduce our 3 year old son to his inheritance: Europe. The first trip: a flight to Nice, stay in Antibes, the town on the Cote D'Azur where my father lived for the last 30+ years of his life, where I used to go for holidays in my late teens, my first experience of spending time in France. We drove to Grenoble, stayed with some UK friends who had moved to work there, attended a wedding between an Italian friend and former colleague, now also resident in Grenoble, and UK Army officer, stationed in Germany.
Later that year, the full road trip: Eurotunnel to France, overnighting in Namur, Belgium. Then down through Luxembourg and on to Germany, ending up south of Munich -two countries a day. Staying with an Irish & German couple, again, friends from Bristol. Introducing Alexander to the German lifestyle, heading into Austria for his first Alpine hut experience. Other holidays, other places: Italy, Berlin, Amsterdam. He, like us, had the whole of Europe waiting for him when he grew up.
And now? The UK has voted to put a wall between itself and the rest of the continent. A lot of the voters think they will are putting a wall up to keep people out. Maybe but the consequence is a wall keep the children in.
For people struggling to survive in the bits of the country where the heavy industry used to be, that's not exactly something that matters to them. Competition for minimum wage, zero hour jobs, the repeated message that "it's all the fault of Europe", you can't fault them. When your life is fucked -you've got nothing to lose. Unfortunately for them: this isn't going to solve their problems. They were lied to by politicians who knew they were being dishonest and by papers that told them Brexit was the answer. Wherein lies a danger: if a manifesto of xenophobia and cutting yourself from your trading partners doesn't deliver, what's the next policy action going to be? My fear: ramping up the hate.
It doesn't bode well for the UK, and it's a warning for the US: hate, fear and unrealistic promises can attract to voters who feel forgotten by what appears a distant political group unconcerned with the problems of vast swathes of a country.
B. and I are off to France & Spain for a cycling holiday next Saturday. Our son will be staying with his (Scottish) grandmother in Portsmouth, on the South Coast of England. Where before he could look out from the seashore and see a continent waiting for him, now the only thing he'll see waiting for him out there is the Isle of Wight.
[Photo: Berlin Wall, June 2016]