I wrote something...
We take a lot of things for granted in the UK: rain in June; clean, running water; hell, we’re even starting to take Andy Murray’s ability to play red-hot tennis as a given. But most of all, we take for granted our freedom to choose. We can choose eighteen different types of coffee, six different types of quinoa and umpteen types of shampoo.
But, most of all, we get to choose our politics. And, the very best bit about this is that, by and large, we can have opposing views and still be friends. Sure, we might get a bit shouty about our particular side of the argument, but chances are we’ll be sharing a pint and a laugh while we’re doing it.
Which is why the death of Jo Cox is so, so, so shocking. This morning a woman got up and went to work. Did her job. And someone came along and decided that because they didn’t like her politics (allegedly, see below) she deserved to be shot three times. And stabbed. Because, you know, why use one weapon when two are available? They believed that a gun and a knife were an appropriate response because she happens to believe we should remain a part of the EU.
I confess this is a bit of an assumption since the information is still trickling through our 24-hour news culture (I’ll be back to this in a mo) and someone says they heard the man cry ‘Britain First’. And this, just days after Omar Mateen decided that taking life in an LGBT nightclub in Orlando was an appropriate course of action because…well, there seem to be several theories on this one.
I don’t get it. The UK and US consider themselves shining beacons of democracy and free speech and yet I don’t recognise either country right now and I certainly don't like them very much.
Personally, I want us to stay in the EU. I wish my friends who want to leave didn’t feel that way. I would desperately love to change their mind. But, guess what? I respect their right to an opinion. I respect their right to share that opinion. I respect their right to head into that vote next week and make that opinion very clear indeed. And guess what else? A lot of those friends have good, solid, valid points. I sat and watched England v Wales this afternoon with two people who I know are remainers but who absolutely get the views and concerns of the leave side. Because life is never, ever black and white.
But up at the 'higher' levels of politics we appear to have lost our heads. I sighed heavily the day that the referendum campaign ‘officially’ began. First, because we’d already had weeks of it and second, because I knew there would be another four months of bullshit to come. And now, four months later, a woman has gone to work, done her job and will not go home this evening. I don’t know her or her family or her friends but this hurts my heart.
I’m so angry right now at our politicians. I’m angry that weeks ago Corbyn refused to see past the party politics and share a platform with some Tories in order to rally his troops. I’m incredulous at Cameron touting Sadiq Khan as a terrorist then getting up and commending him the following week because Khan did what Corbyn wouldn’t, although I do also think some of this is regarded as a game by everyone (it just ain’t very funny right now). I’m appalled at the utter (inflammatory, to put it politely) tripe that Farage spouts. I’m angry that Labour didn’t see what was happening amongst their voters sooner and I am sick and tired of the Tories eating each other alive because someone wants to be prime minister. I'd probably rail against the Lib Dems, too, if I'd actually heard one thing from them during this whole process. (I won't even start on Trump, although suffice to say I spend a lot of time stomping round my house yelling 'he's an arse' at the television. Classy, Lisa, very classy)
And most of all I hate, hate, hate the 24-hour news cycle. Along with the worst bits of social media it is turning us into a bunch of over-reactive jumping beans, determined to throw ourselves onto the first bandwagon that comes along. I say this as a jumping bean. I’m ready to be as outraged as the next person. But, we seem to have lost any hope of nuance. Maybe I am coming over all rose-tinted. Maybe I’m just naïve. I’ve been listening to a series of podcasts about the Hollywood Black List prior to the McCarthy era and what comes back at me in waves is how some things never change. The shouty people shout and terrible, vindictive decisions get made.
Next week, I have to make one of the biggest decisions I’ve ever been asked to make in my forty years on this planet and all I keep thinking is make it stop. How do I get off this diabolical merry-go-round?
Personally, I believe you effect change from inside institutions. Even when those institutions are broken or flawed or not quite to your taste. We all know there are problems with the EU and I would rather be part of the conversation than standing on the sidelines. But, I respect my friends who disagree with me. Because that’s the beauty of free speech and free thought and democracy.
My eminently more eloquent friend Nev Pierce tweeted this week ‘Wondering today about how the internet seems to amplify horrors. But there's also beauty in how it allows people to know they're not alone.’ It was in response to the Orlando shootings and it made me smile. It’s true. We are so much better together, so why do we keep tearing each other apart? Where has this hatred come from? Has it always been there? Either way, it, too, is breaking my heart.
In a statement, Jo Cox’s husband Brendan has said: “She would have wanted two things above all else to happen now, one that our precious children are bathed in love and two, that we all unite to fight against the hatred that killed her. Hate doesn't have a creed, race or religion, it is poisonous. Jo would have no regrets about her life, she lived every day of it to the full.”
Next week we will vote and I may not get the outcome that I like. But, you know what, I’ll still meet you down the pub for that pint, because this stuff matters. Love matters. Kindness matters. Freedom matters. But most of all people matter.
Go home and hug someone.