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Brexiters and Remainers CAN be friends

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When the country woke to the news that the UK had voted to leave the EU, it was clear that the people (or at least the politically vocal ones) have been divided into two clear camps – the elated Brexiters, who think they’ve got their great country back, and the devastated Remainers, who think their futures have been cruelly taken away from them.

It is unsurprising that politics can get personal. Opinions and decisions that affect our everyday lives are bound to elicit emotional responses. In any kind of election or vote, it is typical for there to be some raised tempers, heated debates, and possibly some disagreements amongst friends. However, in general elections, the views and aims of each party are often fairly broad, so it’s unlikely that people will find no point on which they agree.

Unfortunately, the EU referendum is not so forgiving. The votes of the referendum are complete opposites, with the campaigns at logger-heads with each other throughout, even when it came down to the basic facts of what the EU does or does not do for us. The closest thing to an agreement that people can come to in this political debate is the Remainers conceding that the EU isn’t perfect.

Many people, including myself, couldn’t wait for the referendum to be over. The political atmosphere was nasty – nothing could be said without it being dismissed as scaremongering, and there was even the brutal murder of Jo Cox. But since the referendum things have somehow got worse; the nastiness of the politicians has trickled down to the people – online, in the media and even on the streets, Remainers have been calling Brexiters racist idiots and Brexiters have been calling Remainers undemocratic and stuck-up. Being honest, as a Remainer, I have been a little lax with the words ‘racist’ and ‘stupid’ myself, but given the numerous reports of rising racial abuse and worrying numbers of people admitting they didn’t truly understand what they were voting for, it is very hard not to. On the other hand, I can understand why Brexiters are getting frustrated at calls for a second referendum, as normally a decision of the people is respected as final.

This is what the discussions (or, let’s be honest, arguments) boil down to – racism versus democracy. On my Facebook I’ve been attacked for promoting the petition for a second referendum, being told to “suck it up” and go away (though not in quite such polite terms). When I shared verified articles of rising racism, I was told it was a “shame” that us Remainers were brandishing all Brexiters as racists, and that I was narrow-minded and stuck up. In both cases, these people are my friends. Admittedly, not very close ones, but people I have pleasant memories with. How can I not get frustrated with them? They’re insulting me for views that I think are obvious – that the small majority of the vote and the lies of the Leave campaign make the whole situation undemocratic, and that racial abuse is a pressing issue that cannot be ignored, regardless of the true feelings of most Leave voters. They’re my friends, but I can’t help liking them a little less for being so blinkered and indifferent.

Yet, this doesn’t mean that I believe all Brexiters are racist, nor do I think they’re all idiots. Likewise, I’m sure Brexiters don’t think all Remainers are stuck up, undemocratic snobs. So, despite strong disagreements, can we all be sensible and not let this get between us?

via SIZZLE

According to the popular Winnie the Pooh meme, yes we can. At the end of the day, friends are rarely friends because of politics, and this decision shouldn’t have to bring an end to that. However, Jennie Stevenson's response  to this meme summarised how I feel about the situation very efficiently: a belief in unity, that we’re stronger together, and that when we work as a team we both benefit is why I voted remain and what I hope for the future.

That said, the Brexiters’ vote “precipitated a huge financial collapse, destabilised by country, and threatened the future of my children, and it’s hard for me to forget that, especially within a matter of hours.” As this Sixty Acre Wood themed response continues, many of the Leave voters may not be personally racist, but they sided with people who are. They may still be the same people we were friends with, but we’ve seen a new side of half our country; one that appears to be wilfully ignorant, arguably selfish, and inconsiderate of our EU neighbours. On top of this, the result has rooted out the closet racists many of us didn’t believe we had. Essentially, Winnie The Pooh sounds great, but back in the real world it’s not all so rosy.

The reason that realistically things aren’t so rosy is because the reaction has been so very visceral and emotional. I’ve spoken to many people who have lost sleep, felt surging anger, and, like me, shed tears over this result. These are the kind of emotions that can easily break up friendships. Thankfully, demographics dictate there shouldn’t be too many friends torn apart. The people who attacked me on Facebook, for example, were anomalies amongst a sea of vehemently Remain voters.

Furthermore, people are aware of the potential divisions and there have been calls from both sides to work together to find a future that suits everyone. Though I am, to be honest, filled with an almost constant rage at Brexiters and therefore find it hard to think so democratically, I do know deep down that we all need to listen to each other’s concerns and come to some kind of compromise, however impossible that may seem amongst the turmoil of parliament at the moment.

The most pressing issue for the everyday person, I would say, is the reports of racial abuse. Everyone, though in particular the Brexiters, need to stop defending themselves by insisting they’re not racist and actually take responsibility for the impact of their political decision. Basic psychology dictates that the extremist Leave voters are more likely to listen to fellow Brexiters, so they need to speak out as well as the Remainers. At the end of the day, racial abuse is more important and dangerous than being a little offended at being called racist or stuck-up.

All this working together malarkey does sound rather idealistic, but somewhere deep down I do still believe that most people want politics to calm down and for everyone to be friends again. So, in answer to my original question – yes, I think they can, but perhaps they should avoid talking politics.




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