Brexit, the U.S. Election and "The Way It Used to Be"
If you know me well, you know what I’ve been doing since the Brexit vote: reading every article, watching every video and listening to every podcast that I can get my hands on. Needless to say, I'm worried.
I’m worried because London — the city where I eventually want to attend graduate school, the city I credit with my love of travel, one of my favorite cities in the world — may never be the same again after this vote.
So why did anyone vote for Brexit?
At its core, the campaign to leave the European Union was anti-immigrant. Sure, there were other factors at play in the vote like 'state sovereignty' and the well-publicized amount paid by Britain to be a part of the European Union. (Unfortunately, it appears that the benefits gained by paying that amount were not so well-publicized). As for the 'leave' voters who don't identify as racist or anti-immigrant, it seems that some voted in support of the anti-immigrant rhetoric anyway because they believed that immigrants were taking their jobs, their state-sponsored health benefits or their entitlements.
What does this mean for London?
Prior to the vote, it was well known throughout Britain and the world that a vote for Brexit would materially change London in particular. As the financial center of the EU, London depends heavily upon the free movement of capital and people provided by EU membership. The process of Britain detaching itself from the EU is scheduled to take 2 years, but it has never been done before and the process won’t officially kick off until the new Prime Minister and team trigger article 50. During a 2+ year period of uncertainty about taxes, regulation and labor, it isn't difficult to guess what many London-based financial institutions will do.
They will take their business elsewhere.
Does that mean that Britain will go back to the way it used to be?
We may need to define that a bit, because we have a similar problem here in the U.S. We also have people that want to support a candidate or selection of policies that they think will make America the way it used to be (or 'make America great' like it used to be).
My question is: what time period are we talking about in British or American history that everyone is trying to get back to in this time machine?
Here in the U.S., we have those time periods where we were slaughtering Native Americans, killing ‘witches’, holding slaves, making sure women couldn’t vote, making sure women couldn’t work outside the home, making sure that the women who did work outside the home didn’t make as much money as their male counterparts, segregating everything based on the color of people’s skin, disallowing non-heterosexual people from doing things that their heterosexual counterparts were allowed to do, not to mention discriminating against basically every single group of people that has ever immigrated to this country, including many of our own ancestors (Irish, Italian, Polish, African, and Mexican to name just a FEW)…. which of those is the period we are targeting in the time machine?
I’m just curious.
Luckily, it will never be the way it used to be in Britain or America.
If it was, I wouldn’t be free.
I wouldn’t be free to travel all over the world, sometimes completely alone. I may not have been free to attend a University or dream of attending graduate school in London. I’d probably be married, maybe even if I didn’t want to be. I might not be free to write under my own name or work in finance.
And I wouldn’t even have a medium to share my thoughts and urge people to think through their choices (like this blog), because the Internet wouldn’t be around yet.
Things may never be they way they used to be again, but I believe that they can be better. I believe that they already are better. Both Britain and the U.S. have our issues and there is still work to be done, but the fact that I’m able to write this blog post as a single, professional woman using my own name shows how much progress we’ve made.
If Brexit has taught us anything, it is what democracy REALLY means.
Democracy means that everyone gets a vote, and anyone can win. Everyone’s vote — including votes by people who have no idea what the consequences of their decision may be (or do know the consequences and don’t care), including votes by people who may only have to live with the consequences of their decision for 5 or 10 years (but their children will be living with those consequences for a lifetime), including votes by people who actually do place their own racism above what is best for their country — everyone’s vote is weighted the exact same.
THIS is why every vote counts. THIS is why you have to show up to vote.
To my American friends: I know you may hate Congress, the system, and the government. You may be fed up with all of it. But Britain warned us here in the U.S. that the people who chose racism over prosperity with a single check mark on a piece of paper or computer screen… those people will definitely be showing up to vote.
And if you don’t show up, those people could win.
So I’ll see you at the polls.