#BREXIT and Nostalgia

Now I’m not British, and I don’t mean to opine about things that are none of my business; that don’t affect my life. Especially something monumental that is so raw – an election that was like a divorce really (and in a divorce you never want to take sides). There’s always winners and losers in elections, the nasty side of our winner take all systems. The upside is that most elections don’t really affect our lives. Who occupies a house a thousand miles away. Who we have to see on the news every night. Changes most often happen slowly. Oh, sure they mark the destinies of foreign wars in faraway places – but those places are, well, faraway. Home, work, the mall – the movies, the bar. That’s the radius that matters most to me; to all of us. The elites forget that – expanding their radius, drinking at restaurants on the Champs Elysee while abandoning the local bar, ignoring the farmers markets. It’s more fun, talking about Paris and Prague – than it is to talk about Manchester. Alas, they should condescend to visit occasionally, drink a pint at the end of the day at the local pub and buy a gallon of milk at the store; lest they forget what people’s lives are like and what they worry about and miss a #BREXIT. But I digress.

Parliament.jpeg

This time what was decided upon was breathtaking. Epic. Existential for so many people. I found myself thinking about the British citizens who have properties in Spain, who established companies in Germany; who live and work across the channel. British diplomats working in EU missions. Businesses from abroad that set up in London to service Europe. The workers from so many countries who have moved to England – from Germany and Spain and Austria and beyond. What about the folks in Gibraltar? For all these, this decision was existential. What will happen to them? I guess nobody really knows.

Nostalgia. I have my roots in Europe too – well I guess not Europe anymore, but England. Coming from America, I’ve always seen those as the same – a distinction without a difference – which I suppose was the problem in the first place. And who of us doesn’t love Europe? If they say they don’t, they are lying. Castles, quaint French villages overflowing with wine and cheese. Whitewashed Spanish villages perched on arid hills overlooking the Mediterranean: the smell of fresh-baked bread and strong coffee in the morning and calamari fried in olive oil at night. Tapas, wiener schnitzel, black olives and blood pudding; wine and beer and the great open spaces dotted with relics of 2000 years of history – history of the ‘west’, my history too. Throwing this open to itself, then to the world? Ending the wars through shared interests? It was a grand vision – ironically inflicted mortal wounds by sawdust bureaucrats with no faces.

I do, however, understand the decision to #BREXIT. Like I said before I am not British, at least not anymore. My ancestors left that Island to seek opportunity in America in the 1850s; but I still have England’s common law reverberating through my consciousness – the Magna Carta still dominates my imagination. Self-determination, the gift of Saxon England to the world; trial by jury, the shire charters; ideas of consent of the governed, of limited government under the supervision of common people, landowners all – of private property buttressed by a strong currency that made England the envy of Europe for a millennium. The British are fiercely protective of all this against any attempt to undermine these values: the Norman invasion the first; the interminable attempts to contain their grasping monarchs; the fight against the Pope in Rome; the wars, ending in the ‘war to end all wars’, and then the war after that – and the cold war after that. They could have seen this coming, should have seen this coming – the technocrats in Brussels and their clients in London. But they didn’t care, or didn’t care to understand. Parochial, they called it – EU is not about protecting those values, but instead replacing them with others broader and more universal, not rooted in the hills and valleys and villages – in the stories of individual people and their struggles. But that is impossible.

They might should have visited the pubs occasionally – the technocrats and elites and politicians. And maybe they should start having vino and tapas in the alley behind an imposing, ancient cathedral; or visit a bierhaus in the Black Forest; or have a steaming bowl of pasta by a quiet piazza. Maybe they should remember the Europe they say they were trying to protect, lest it continue to shatter under their feet.

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About Joel D. Hirst

Joel D. Hirst is a novelist and a playwright, author of the recently released novel "Lords of Misrule" about jihad in the Sahara. Joel has also written "The Lieutenant of San Porfirio" and its sequel "The Burning of San Porfirio".
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8 Responses to #BREXIT and Nostalgia

  1. Lino Miani says:

    Very balanced Joel. As someone with roots (and now branches) in Europe I was unabashedly in favor of “Remain” for all the reasons you describe. I felt that way despite the fact that like you, I’m American and it shouldn’t matter to me…Actually, because I’m American I should naturally sympathize with “Leave” and I do, but have the luxury of not having to suffer the consequences of the decision.

    Anyway, I liked your piece but still shed a virtual tear at the results of the vote. In my rather large circle of British friends, the vast majority live in the EU and I sympathize with the uncertainty they feel now.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Jacob Sulzbach says:

    I am also disappointed that British voters decided to opt out of the European Union. I always felt Great Britain was a voice of reason within the European community and they offered an important balance to the statist public sector dependent economic policies pursued in opposition to common sense by many of the nations on the southern tier. For that reason, I feel the EU were the real losers in the Brexit vote.

    But I am even more disappointed at what drove the British to leave. Clearly the anxieties felt over uncontrolled immigration alienated voters from their government and, in such a climate of distrust, it became too difficult to maintain a humanitarian consensus that Great Britain would have to do its part.

    I have long been among those urging tolerance and patience with the problems of immigration. But Brexit has convinced me that, regardless of our humanitarian sympathies, we will all have to come to grips with the reality that uncontrolled immigration is a politically destabilizing force in modern politics and that a new debate must begin to get a hold of it. And it really hurts me to say that.

    Liked by 3 people

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  4. Eve Stevens says:

    I was not surprised by the Leave win. I am not British but my sister is. She told me last winter that Leave would win. So did my British neighbour. Leave did not win because of immigration. Leave won because the older people, the ones who were born into freedom, could not continue with unelected bureaucrats in Brussels telling them what they could and could not do. How would you like your village to flood because your country was not allowed to dredge the river?

    Like

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