The news agenda has been so miserable of late that it’s become near impossible to find anything to be positive about. So late last week composer Nick Harvey asked Twitter to tell him things that have made people smile, and in doing so created an umbrella of loveliness amidst a downpour of dross. An accidental penis, a duck staircase and the ‘Non-Prejudiced Human Hut’ proved that wherever there is darkness, there is always something good to hold onto, somewhere. A much needed reminder at this difficult time.
In the past few weeks my faith in humanity has been tested on numerous occasions, only to be restored by strength in unity. Following the deadliest ever mass shooting in the United States at a nightclub in Orlando the World united behind the victims in an outpour of solidarity. Thousands of people fell silent in London’s Soho at one of the worldwide vigils, a silence broken by applause, singing and the release of hundreds of balloons which was mirrored by hundreds of thousands of people in hundreds of towns and cities across the World.
In the UK, when one of our own MPs was brutally murdered by a right-wing fanatic, politicians and people came together to celebrate her life. A single white rose was placed on her seat in a poignant House of Commons tribute and a boat filled with flowers and emblazoned with the words “Yorkshire Rose” was floated down the Thames to Parliament where the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Prime Minister, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, family and friends paid tribute to our courageous politician.
In Jo Cox’s maiden speech to Parliament she told the house ‘We are far more united than the things that divide us’, and her words, like the Orlando vigils emblazoned with ‘We will conquer that hate with love’, couldn’t be more poignant the day before the UK goes to the polls to vote in the EU referendum and to decide whether to opt for togetherness over division.
As war continues to ravage parts of the World and seriously threaten others, perhaps now is a good time to remind ourselves of the EU’s founding principle: Strength in unity. The EU is divided across social, political and linguistic lines, yet we have formed a unity that transcends these barriers because some things – peace, human rights, security etc – are more important. Politics of division, after more than 40 years of unity, would be a massive backwards step.
There are a lot of legitimate reasons for supporting the Leave campaign, but it has also legitimized the xenophobic underbelly of Britain. So much of the Brexit campaign is based on the fear of outsiders, resorting to the “Powellite gutter of racism that has not been seen in Westminster for decades”, Polly Toynbee wrote in The Guardian, because “the leavers have nowhere to turn but xenophobia”.
And let’s not pretend that’s not dangerous. One in three migrants have been the target of verbal abuse while living in the UK, according to new research, with that number raising to 41 per cent for young migrants aged 16-24. Another report due for release this week warns that right-wing extremists inflict more fatalities and injuries than Islamist terrorists in “lone actor” attacks, many driven by the legitimisation of racism that has gripped our country.
In a World of great uncertainty, the answer is not to draw the drawbridge or build Donald Trump-esque walls across the cliffs of Dover. The answer is to break walls down. Both Leave and Remain sides are guilty of campaigning with the politics of fear so far, but here’s a case for the politics of hope; put your faith in humanity and eschew politics of division, because in treacherous times, we must find strength in unity.