I’ll be the first to admit that my blog posts are patchy. I often have several, half written, which never get finished. Today, however, gives me an excuse to merge 3 half written posts into one, and I like to see that sort of thing as a sign of something.
This week has been one that I can only describe as bleak and I’ve found myself feeling ever more desolate. From the scenes of English football fans throwing coins in mockery at refugee children, to Orlando, to the horrific murder of Jo Cox, the world has seemed a terrible place.
Not only is the world a terrible place, but the world is frightened.
I know a lot about fear. In fact, I have spent most of my life being frightened. It’s not something that it easy to admit but anxiety is very much my resting face. It’s not immigrants or unelected bureaucracies that keep me awake at night; my particular brand of terror centres largely around various modes of transport and household appliances that I think are out to kill me. However I get it. When critics say that people are merely acting out of fear, I know how powerful that fear can be.
I recently made a conscious decision that I didn’t want to be frightened any more; that I would choose something else.
These days it’s no wonder I’m fucking terrified.
The EU debate, more than any in my lifetime, is one cloaked in anxiety, terror and fear from both sides – and I’m old enough to remember When The Wind Blows. No one is attempting to soothe anyone’s brow. Each side has tried to beat people into submission (although it’s hard to decide whether something is scaremongering or genuinely terrifying). People frightened of immigrants, people frightened of economic collapse, people frightened of a loss of sovereignty even when that sovereignty is wielded by people in diamond hats.
Father’s Day has very much brought these feelings to a head. Ok I admit, not for everyone, but mainly just for me.
My father has been dead for practically all of my adult life. He has missed all of the best bits; the wedding, the children, the dramas and the questionable decisions. However, it seems odd to say that I don’t think I’ve ever missed him more than now – the EU referendum.
My Dad is the reason I am passionate about politics. In most areas of my life, he was not to be questioned – house rules, dress codes, teenage tantrums – he was very much he who must be obeyed, and indeed I did. We never discussed personal issues, or emotions, or anything so liberal or namby pamby as that. However, when it came to politics, I like to think the Marquis of Queensbury rules applied.
He was a staunch Thatcherite and ridiculously conservative for an Irish immigrant. He was persuasive, convincing and resolutely passionate in his beliefs.
And how I raged against them – about the ozone layer, and the rainforests, and the third world and Nelson Mandela, and racism and all of those retro 80s/90s concerns. I spent 14 years being a vegetarian (long after he’d died in fact) because he said it was a teenage phase that wouldn’t last the month – and dear God if you are party to the traumas I have with my children, feel free to laugh heartily.
We would argue over Sunday dinner which would extend late into the night. My Mum would leave the room declaring she refused to listen for a moment longer. I remember a particularly heated debate in an airport departure lounge, although I can’t remember the subject, where I stormed off and then remembered he had my passport. There were tears, always mine – earnest and heartfelt. But there was also an awful lot of love and respect from both of us. My Mum once took me to one side and told me that he didn’t really disagree with me at all, he just wanted me to be sure I’d thought things through.
I’ve thought of my Dad regularly over these past few weeks, and the arguments we are not having. I reckon he would have been in the Brexit camp, and I’m pretty sure I would have stormed out of the house at least once. But at least we would have both thought things through and come out the other side secure in the knowledge that it would all be OK.
What makes me most sad, and most frightened, is that these are not the conversations we are having, anywhere, by anyone; particularly not those at the epicentre of the campaign. There are very few people having conversations, where they are genuinely listening to anyone else’s point of view. No one’s opinions or arguments are actually being challenged – it’s seems just one giant game of one potato two potato over who can make the other the most terrified.
No good can come of that.
The murder of Jo Cox struck me deeply. She is exactly the person I wish I could be, if only I wasn’t so scared – compassionate, self-effacing, tenacious. If we’re talking about taking our country back – she is the embodiment of what I want our country to be.
Her death, to those who loved her, undoubtedly means pain, loss and unfathomable grief. However, for those who admired her from afar, I hope it represents a line in the sand.
A line where we all stop being so frightened. Whatever side people are one, I hope that our decisions are made according to our hopes and not our fears. That for the next week we can stop talking about the worst case scenarios and start talking about the best, about the kind of people we want to be, the kind of country we want to become.
My Dad adored Les Miserables. I’ve seen it countless times (although these days I pretend I only go to see Strindberg and things at the RSC, natch) and always revert to it in times of crisis. He liked the bad boy made good storyline but I was always all about the barricades.
This week I’ve found it comfortingly pro-remain and have hummed it a lot.
“It is time for us all to decide who we are”
And indeed it is.