Since I became a father, it’s not that unusual for me to be awake at 4.30 in the morning, and this morning was no different, just not for the usual reason. Normally I would have just closed my eyes again, having woken that early with no toddler screaming, but today I thought “just a quick look at my phone, to make sure we’ve voted to remain”. Instead, my bleary eyes saw the horrific sight of a jubilant Nigel Farage and the words “Britain has voted to leave the EU”
There was no getting back to sleep after that and I was alone with my thoughts for a while, until my wife awoke a little later . She knew just from the look on my face what the result had been. We lay there, shell-shocked, devastated. We knew it might happen, but we never really believed it would. The prevailing feeling in my family, my friends on social media, my colleagues at work is a kind of grief. The slogan of the Brexiters was “Taking Back Control”, but it is we, the 48%, who now feel that we have lost our country.
I’ve been alternating all day between anger and despair, having never expected this outcome to hit me this hard, perhaps because I never expected this outcome at all. More than the economic impact of leaving the EU, what saddens me is what it says about our country. I’ve always believed in countries co-operating to make the world a better place rather than isolationism, and considered myself a citizen of the world rather than just the UK, but apparently the majority of my countrymen do not agree. I have no hatred for those who voted out, just disdain for those who have led us down this road for cynical reasons, but I must say I’ve never been less proud to be English than this month, with football supporters fighting in France, the murder of Jo Cox, and now this.
So, I’ve felt pretty down today and have been listening to Johnny Cash’s version of ‘I See a Darkness’ a great deal. It’s not, lyrically speaking, particularly relevant to the current situation, but its’ tone and mood seem apt. At times I do see a darkness. I see a darkness in my daughter’s future, as I wonder what kind of country and world we will be passing down to her. I see a darkness for my career prospects (my wife and I both work at a University, heavily reliant on EU research funding). A darkness for our employment rights, our public services, our small businesses under a government led by the likes of Johnson and Gove.
But I also have hope. We may soon be led by the worst government of our lifetimes, with more power than any other government in our lifetimes, but that doesn’t mean we cannot fight them, or that we must stop trying to make this country the country we want it to be. We must not, and we will not.
There are two lines in ‘I See a Darkness’ that often stick in my mind:
Well you know I have a love, a love for everyone I know. And you know I have a drive, a drive to live I won’t let go
And those lines ring true, even today. We have the people we love, we have music and we have hope. And no referendum can take those things from us.