|Just one woman's thoughts|
(photo by James K Barnett)
I’m writing this today, because stay or leave, I know that I’m going to feel very differently tomorrow.
Today, I feel stress and discomfort. I’m nervous in a way that has nothing to do with excitement.
My body is very reactive. I always physically feel my emotions, and today, I’m finding it hard to breathe and my stomach is a mess. I have never felt like this on polling day before.
I’ve been voting for thirty-three years. I have voted in every election for which I was eligible. I studied History as part of my degree, and universal suffrage was hard won by better men and women than I am. To vote is not just my right, it is my privilege. I have exercised that privilege dozens of times.
In all the years I have been voting, I have been on the losing side, particularly at the local level with Council elections, and my preferred candidate for MP has always been beaten at the polls.
I dread being on the losing side this time, and this feeling is partly responsible for my discomfort, for my stress.
But, I am uncomfortable for another reason. I am uncomfortable because this election campaign has been divisive.
I have been surprised and sometimes shocked by the things that have been said by people that I respect and am even fond of. How and why people have come to the decisions they have reached is none of my business, and I understand that many of the people who disagree with me do so for very good reasons.
The problem is that the rhetoric of hatred and fear has so permeated this campaign that I find myself wrongly and inappropriately projecting that rhetoric onto the people who disagree with my stance on this issue. I have to remind myself that there are rational reasons for both staying in the EU and for leaving it.
Today, I read my ballot paper twice. I didn’t need to, because the question was worded as simply as could possibly be:
DO YOU WANT TO REMAIN IN EUROPE?
DO YOU WANT TO LEAVE EUROPE?
There was no room for error, and yet, I have been so bombarded by the rhetoric, and I was so sure of my response that I read the ballot paper twice, just to be absolutely certain of voting the way that I had always intended.
The polling station where I cast my vote was busy when I arrived. It would appear that there’s going to be a big turn-out for this one. Everyone has an opinion. I looked around me at the other voters, and I began to wonder who would vote stay and who would vote leave. I’ve never before wondered how another person, a total stranger, would vote. It was as if I was wondering which of these people, who are my neighbours, could be trusted.
I shook off the feeling; it was unwelcome and made me feel judgemental and uncomfortable.
I like to think of myself as a live and let live, everyone has good in them, kind of person. I don’t judge a person on race, creed or gender. I make a point of treating everyone with equal respect.
This morning, I found myself looking at people in a way that depressed me. I was looking for signs that a person was educated or politically aware…
There are no signs, and the educated and politically aware have perfectly sound reasons for choosing to vote either way in this election.
Trust me, if I can feel like this, anyone can feel like this. This morning, I had to talk myself out of my own latent prejudices, and I honestly didn't know that I had any.
In the end, it wasn’t about the vote itself, it was about people’s motivations. I wasn’t concerned about which way a person was going to vote, I was concerned that there might be people in the room who were racist. I wanted to see if anything in the way they looked or dressed, or presented themselves, or in their gestures or voices, would give them away.
That’s what this campaign has done. It has made me question what the people around me might be like, when I had always believed people to be essentially good.
The Brexit campaign has used immigration to persuade the voters to leave Europe. Remain have suggested that everyone in the Brexit campaign is racist.
Neither of these things is true, but it leaves all of us wondering.
Of course there have always been racists and xenophobes out there, but out there is the operative phrase. This campaign has suggested that these people are my neighbours and friends, and I object strongly to that.
The EU Referendum campaign has made me feel differently about people, and I don’t like it.
Tomorrow, I shall feel differently again.
Stay or leave, I hope we can put all the rhetoric behind us, and I hope never to see another political campaign like this one.
We should all be ashamed.