There's that moment when, suddenly, you realise that you're done with all the bullshit: it's stopped meaning anything and all that's left now is to leave.
Well, that's just happened with England1 and me. When the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016 I was, like many other people, heartbroken: the choice to burn the future of the nation's young people, and hence of the nation itself, on an alter of bigotry and invented nostalgia for a glorious past that never existed wasn't completely surprising, but it was still upsetting. Like other people I spent a long time trying to explain the result to myself in terms which both made some kind of sense – I refuse to believe the idea that all the people who voted for brexit were simply too stupid to understand what they were voting for because I don't believe that the people who voted were brexit were stupid. But I couldn't find another answer which didn't lead to horrible conclusions.
And, of course, the horrible conclusions are the right conclusions: the people who voted for brexit indeed were not stupid, but they did then and do now believe deeply horrible things. It took me a long time to accept this, but events in the US since late 2016 have really made it very clear that very many people – perhaps most people – perhaps me – are, simply, terrible human beings.
What wasn't clear at the time of the referendum was that the people who so desperately wanted to leave the EU considered it far beneath their dignity to spend any time thinking about what would be involved in doing so. Rather they assumed that other people would sort out the details for them. And when those other people turned out to be either imaginary, unwilling to do the brexiteers' work for them, or both, why they got on with what they do best: whining and blaming other people for the problems they have brought upon themselves.
And of course the catastrophe will never be their fault: nothing ever is. A succession of easily-identifiable groups are already being found to blame and more will follow: people who voted to remain, the Poles, the EU, the BBC, the metropolitan elite, the 'mainstream media', the judges, the intellectuals, the liberals, the gypsies, the gays, the Muslims, and, inevitably soon, somehow, the Jews. We know where this leads.
And still I was heartbroken, because I loved England, the country I where was born and where my ancestors have lived for a thousand years or more, and I could not bear to see it turn into this nationalist caricature of itself ruled over by a laughing clown prince who cares no more for his subjects than he cares for ants. And as the end approached I dreaded the final, irrevocable loss of the future and the real start of the journey that ends with camps, gas and mass graves.
And then, suddenly, at the start of January, I discovered I was free of it. Suddenly I realised I was done with the bullshit and the whining: that I no longer cared, and that all that is left now is to find somewhere to go, and to leave. Not yet physically – I have family & friends here still – and perhaps not ever physically if nowhere else will take me. But I am done with England's bullshit: the relationship is over. I am free of the dream of England. And I am so glad.
Yes, England, not the UK. ↩