Divided?

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A perspective on the British EU Referendum

I feel sad for the people of the United Kingdom that nurture credence in a progressive, multicultural and open nation. The upcoming days, years, maybe even decades, are shaping to transform their land into a narrow, little patch of inwardness. And maybe that is a natural outcome. After centuries of expansion and global interference, England might just be coming full circle.

As the UK lays on the brink of seceding from a European Project that shaped most of us born after the 1970’s, it seems obvious that many haven’t embraced what it is to belong to an European Community. I for one did, and still do. I am Portuguese; I have lived and worked in the UK, the Netherlands and soon enough Catalonia. I have benefited from a continent that thrived by being together, a continent that embraced difference to build a common identity and future. A continent that did not forget the illnesses of the past.

I lived in the UK for three years. That part of my journey took me to London and Birmingham, where I came to know the intricacies of the English life, the nuances of the British character, and the relentless manipulation of the Eurosceptic media.

Arriving in the pre-Olympics London, I was enveloped and charmed by a city poignantly open-hearted, a multitude of languages and cultures coming together and coexisting in a space of shared symbolism. It is curious how the diversity of so many colors and flags, outfits and voices seem to join us at such exceptional events, but is used for dissension when we are not so special. Which, regrettably, is most of the time.

In fact, those memorable months in 2012 masqueraded a reality festering underneath, and as the Olympic rings were brought down from Tower Bridge’s upper walkway, the insidious rhetoric spewed by many media outlets started pouring once more onto the battered minds of many unsatisfied brits and belittled foreigners. As I came to discover, the politics of fear and division were a rampant feature of the British media landscape and the dystopian weave of discontentment fed on a daily basis by newspapers, radio talk-shows and TV networks kept furthering a divide between people and peeling away their ability to distinguish truth from lies. It became clear to me that in England, all that was foreign was increasingly portrayed as ravishing the British essence while being the main cause for economic strife and hardship.

This is the reason why I ultimately left the UK. Probably to never return. In a certain way, I too was defeated by the petty and bigoted creatures that salivate with the opportunity to “take back control” of a country with a cultural and ethnic ambiance way too diverse for them.

So… I must admit that my perspective on this EU referendum is Divided. I want the UK to Remain in the European Union because I fear for the people that fight for justice and equity in its shores. People like the wonderful Jo Cox. But I do wonder if it wouldn’t be better for the EU if England decided to part ways. That might very well be the earthquake that will stimulate European leaders to construct a truly unified European Union and shape this century into a global beacon of hope.

I have no vote in this matter; the British people are entitled to choose either way and should stand by their decision. But I will pay attention to the outcome of the Referendum. I believe this might be the first of many battles to come, engagements that we will have to undertake in order to keep this continent out of the hands of neo-fascists and demagogues.

And in this, I Am Not Divided. I will be ready to fight side by side with my brothers and sisters that believe in Liberty, Equality and Fraternity for ALL.

Haarlem, 19/07/2016

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