Somewhat ironically, bearing in mind in my last post I had ranted and raved about the wonders of basketball, last week started off with me badly spraining my ankle at said-basketball training.
One minute I was up, mind, body and soul focused on not letting the 6 foot 2 girl I was playing opposite get any shots up if I could do anything about it goddamnit – and the next I was on the floor.
I like to think I have a relatively high pain threshold – I don’t cry easily, but then I don’t often get injured or ill. But man alive this hurt. So much so that all I could do was sit in the middle of the court blinking in shock until the Riders assistant coach came over, tied my trainer laces to an impossibly tight degree and prodded me to standing.
While weight-bearing was so painful I was seriously concerned I’d actually broken it (Dad, having poked around at it a bit in true Sports Medicine style, confirmed it wasn’t) the pain was not the worst part of it. It was lying awake in my bed at 4 am the next day, having been woken by the excruciating agony of accidentally jostling my foot, and knowing that I couldn’t do anything about it – any of it. Basketball was off the cards for at least a month, I wouldn’t be able to meet with friends in town as planned that week, and in that very moment, tossing and turning and failing to find anything resembling a comfortable position, I couldn’t even get up for more paracetemol. I just had to lie there, blinking back tears, while my family slept on and the sun began to rise.
The simple act of being able to get up and out of bed is a gift of good health that isn’t truly appreciated until it’s gone.
Fortunately, my ankle is just sprained. Yeah it sucks, but I’m well aware it could have been worse. It’s a temporary problem.
I only wish I could say the same for the UK, in light of the EU Referendum result on Thursday.
In many ways, to have a stab at an impressively extended metaphor, the vote transpired in a similar way to to how my ankle had. We were all playing nicely, merrily sharing posts on Facebook reminding people to vote and joking about how relieved we would be when the propaganda letters from both sides stopped littering our doormats.
For me personally, while I was aware that Leave was a threat in the polls, I honestly, hand on heart, never seriously considered it would be the outcome. I don’t think I’m the only one who would admit to this assumption. “People who aren’t sure will panic, stick with what they know and vote remain,” I told people confidently, whenever the topic came up in discussion.
Oh how wrong I was.
Because on Friday morning, it was the UK who was sitting in the middle of the court, blinking in shock.
It wasn’t the result anyone had really expected, even, much to my infinite frustration, from the millions of people who’d voted Leave. “I wanted to make sure Remain didn’t win by too large a margin,” someone was interviewed as saying in Manchester, and all I could do was gawk at the television. BBC presenters struggled to juggle the footage of hundreds of people booing Boris outside his London home alongside continual updates from the City as Britain’s stocks plummeted. My Facebook and Instagram feed was awash with genuine devastation, my group chat with uni friends was dominated by disbelief. That night was my Dad’s birthday meal out and all we could talk about was Europe, speculating what other people in the restaurant might have voted.
And then – the real pain started to set in. After the events of the past week, I’ve never felt more acutely disillusioned with British politics. It’s become rapidly apparent that the promises the Leave campaign made were little more than lies; that Scotland and Ireland are seriously considering upping and leaving us (not that I can blame them); that Cameron is desperate to get out of dodge because he hasn’t a clue how to deal with the fallout; that our next potential candidates for PM, are, quite honestly, abysmal, and that, actually, no-one knows what to do. The Leave campaign was built on, predominantly, whipping up racially-motivated fears surrounding immigration and ridiculous facts about an extra £350 million for the NHS – it wasn’t built on a constructive plan for Britain once we actually left the EU.
And now we’re lying in bed at 4am in the morning, nursing our wounds, not able to do a single thing about it and realising we hadn’t appreciated what a good thing we had.
I feel oddly like I’m going through the stages of grief. As the true millennial I am, the first thing I did on waking up on Friday was to check Facebook. The first post I saw was a status update from a fellow student who had live-tweeted the results for my university’s student paper. It read:
‘To those of you who are waking up, welcome to a more internalised, isolated and uglier Britain.‘
Denial was my immediate reaction. I honestly thought it must have been a mistake, that everyone on Facebook was in on some twisted joke, or that I was still half asleep. But as I hobbled downstairs and turned on the news it started to sink in. Anger took over next, spurred on by the oh-so-comforting compliments from Donald Trump to the British people for ‘taking back their country’, followed quickly by bargaining. It wasn’t fair – the margin was so small for such a momentous decision. A democratic majority may have voted for that decision, but a vote based on a campaign led by fear and false facts was hardly as valid. Surely a second referendum could be called? Surely? A petition demanding as such has, at the time of writing, nearly 4 million signatures.
But in the last few days I feel like I’ve passed into the fourth stage: depression. A second referendum is, many commentators agree, a pipe dream. I feel as though I am mourning the loss of my home as an multicultural, European country. I am mourning all the things that will change for my generation, the security of our future, the international cooperation and exciting possibility for jobs within the sector – and the smaller things too that weren’t highlighted enough by the Remain campaign: EU interrail passes, EHIC cards, the inevitable loss of the Erasmus scheme, which, as a huge study abroad advocate, has really hit home.
The Leave side had campaigned for a return to ‘Great Britain’. For my generation though, who’d largely voted Remain, this Britain is the only one we’ve known, and for all it’s flaws, it wasn’t half bad. My generation are also, funnily enough, the ones who are going to have to live in the Britain that is moulded by this decision for the next 60 years.
I am mourning the fact that, while the Leave campaign did undeniably have some worthwhile political arguments questioning the democracy of EU elections at the start, it quickly became a campaign of hate – and hate, it seems, has won out. The almost instant news of racist material being posted through Polish families letter boxes alongside a rising wave of reports of other hate crimes in the aftermath of Brexit is appalling, but even more depressing is the thought that it most certainly won’t be the last of it. I wrote a piece of history coursework earlier this year on Enoch Powell and the Smethwick election of 1964 (‘the most racist town in Britain’ as it was known at the time), and I’m experiencing a terrifying sense of deja vu to that essay the more I look into the Leave campaign’s rhetoric (I’d pretty much ignored it first time round.) It saddens me beyond belief to be associated with that hate.
In desperate need of someone to rant to home-alone and housebound as I was, I actually Skyped my good friend in America on the day of the result. She answered the call with, “Um, I’m sorry, what!?”
It was talking to her about the results of the referendum on the UK front, and the renewed gun control debate following Orlando (which, predictably, doesn’t seem to be going anywhere) that I realised something. For the first time, I was feeling as unpatriotic as her. In the past, I’d felt that Britain had been able to hold something of a moral high ground compared to the US. Not anymore.
The UK has refused to stay sitting at the same table as the other major players in Europe, assuming we are in our own right a major player. This may well be true (though certainly isn’t the case judging by our performance in the Euros loooool), but we can’t expect to have the same say, the same gravitas as before. Brussels has ruled out any possibility of informal talks until the UK triggers article 50, and I don’t blame them. We’re arrogant to think we should be given special treatment from an organisation we’ve just voted to leave.
The final straw for me in terms of my faith in politics was watching Cameron’s first statement in Parliament yesterday following his resignation. He stood up, and within 30 seconds of a speech predicted to lay out the plans for Brexit in the coming weeks, a speech that vitally needed to provide a feeling of stability and comfort in the turmoil, had managed to make a joke at Jeremy Corbyn’s expense to a ridiculous chorus of jeers from the benches.
I don’t care how much Corbyn may or may not have messed up, I don’t care that Cameron campaigned for Remain – I will never be proud to be represented by people who jeer when their country is falling to pieces. Sod them, to be quite honest.
I know the next stage of grief is acceptance, and I’m sure it’ll come for me eventually. There are some positives politically to leaving the EU, and though these won’t outweigh what we’ve lost in my mind, I guess it’s important to focus on these. It’s also important to keep emphasising that while we’ve left the EU, we’re still a part of the continent of Europe. We will still holiday and trade in Europe, the EU itself hasn’t forgotten the millions of young people who voted to stay in, and there is at least an unequivocal bipartisan consensus that the racial intolerance which has reared it’s head in the aftermath of Brexit is absolutely unacceptable.
For now, I’m counting down the days till I fly to Canada, for more reasons than one.
(And I swear to god – if Boris is the next PM I’m going to finish my last year at Exeter and head straight back out there.)