The World Turned Upside Down…

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve no doubt heard that the UK has voted to leave the EU. To say I am gutted is an understatement. I am also so angry that I can barely form coherent thoughts.  I therefore want to apologize ahead of time for what will most likely be an inarticulate, curse-laden post. You have been warned.

So, the Brexit. Let me try to summarize how I am feeling:

  • First of all, fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck. I’m mean seriously – fuck.
  • A majority of people over the age of 65 voted to leave. To which I say, fuck you old people. You’ve just royally screwed the younger generations because you want to return to the good old days. Today’s youth are the ones who are going to have to actually live with the decision you made. The prospects for those grandkids you dote over just got decidedly more dismal. Well done.
  • However, turn-out in areas with a higher percentage of young people was lower than in other areas. So, to those 18-24 year olds who didn’t feel the need to vote – this is what you get. If you didn’t vote, you have no one to blame but yourself.
  • We are now seeing all over the TV and internet news people with “bregret” (can we seriously stop with the cutesy names?) – those who didn’t actually realize what a leave vote would mean for them and their country but voted to leave anyway. For fuck’s sake, do your homework people.
  • And then there are the protest voters. Those who voted to leave as a protest because they didn’t think that enough people would vote leave for it to actually win. Seriously?! YOUR VOTE COUNTS! To all those “Bernie or Bust” people out there, please learn from this. A protest vote from you could very well be the reason President Trump gets sworn in next January.
  • The British Pound, not surprisingly, has tanked. I am currently paid in sterling and in the past two days have suffered a €10,000 cut in my salary. Same job, same responsibilities, same hours, A LOT less money. Fuck you very much.
  • The amount of racism and bigotry that I have seen displayed since Thursday is truly astonishing, and scary. This vote was about xenophobia more than anything and that makes me want to weep.
  • I am an immigrant. And to those who say to me “Well, we don’t mean you when we say we want to keep the foreigners out”, I say “Fuck you.”  I am an immigrant. I am a foreigner. If you don’t want “them”, you don’t want me.
  • I once thought I would like to give living in the UK a try. Not anymore. Why would I want to live in a place that is going backwards? Sorry, London – we could have had a beautiful thing, but it’s not going to happen now. I’m holding out hope for Edinburgh though, as the one good thing to come of this debacle could be Scottish independence.
  • Donald Trump and Sarah Palin both rejoiced that the leave vote won. Need I say more?
  • We are now living in a post-factual world. The actual truth doesn’t appear to matter to many people any more. They hear what they want to hear and believe what they want to believe. Seriously, when did FACT become a four letter word.
  • If this can happen in the UK, then Trump can win in the US. Come on, America – now is your chance to show the UK that, despite their fancy accents, you really are the smarter of the two. Don’t blow it.
  • Fuck.
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Crossing lines?

A couple of weeks ago, I was in Edinburgh for a wedding. More specifically, I arrived there on Friday, September 19th. One day after the Scottish vote for independence. Not surprisingly, this vote was huge news just about everywhere in Europe. And even those of us who do not live in Scotland and, therefore, didn’t have a vote had definite opinions about how we would vote if given the opportunity.

This got me thinking about the privacy of voting in general and how differently it is regarded here and in the States. My political leanings and affiliations are fairly obvious with just a cursory view of my Facebook page.  One can probably predict with a good degree of accuracy how I have voted in the past few Presidential elections and how I will vote in 2016.

But, what struck me when I moved to Europe was how okay it is for complete strangers to ask you how you are going to vote, or how you voted.  I had been living in Dublin for just days when the 2012 Presidential election took place and, once people heard my accent, their next question to me was who I voted for. Taxi drivers, hotel reception clerks, waiters – just about any stranger I met felt perfectly okay asking me a question that most Americans consider nearly as invasive as asking how much money one makes. I didn’t mind answering – mostly because I knew that most everyone I met probably would have voted the same as me, given the opportunity. I knew I wasn’t going to get into any lengthy, uncomfortable debates about American politics.  I’m not sure a Romney supporter would have faired the same way.

And it isn’t just Ireland that inquires so openly about one’s vote.  Back in November 2000, I was visiting Paris for Thanksgiving with my BFF. Though the election had been held more than two weeks ago, a winner still had not been declared and, of course, this was huge news in Paris (and, I imagine, just about everywhere). We were in line to climb the tower at Notre Dame where a slightly grizzled but still friendly Frenchman was taking tickets. He heard our accents and before letting us proceed asked in heavily accented English – “Bush or Gore?”. Our answer met with his approval and we were allowed into the tower.  But again, being in Europe, we knew that our choice was the popular choice over here – had we answered “Bush” we probably would have had to save the Notre Dame climb for another trip.

I don’t get offended when people over here ask me how I am going to vote, but I’m also not really itching to ask anybody about their vote when I am in the States. In America, who you vote for is a private thing unless you choose to share it. It’s a line you don’t cross unless invited to do so.  And here in Europe, at least in my experience, who you vote for is a perfectly acceptable form of small talk. I don’t think one way is better than the other. It’s just yet another way European and American sensibilities are different.

And it’s another difference that I find quite fascinating.

A Ballot of None…

Last week they held an election here in Ireland.  From what I could tell, it wasn’t a “big deal”, though I could very well be wrong about that.  My co-workers and Irish friends didn’t seem overly concerned about it and only a few of them voted.  There were banners for each side hung on lamp posts about town, but I didn’t notice any obnoxious, scare-tactic adverts on the telly or a huge amount of coverage in the news, and I certainly didn’t receive any robo-calls.

But even if this election was a big deal, even if I was bombarded with adverts and phone calls and debates and signs and whatnot, it wouldn’t have mattered.  I’m not a citizen of Ireland so I can’t vote here.  I can vote in the US, I can vote in Italy, but I have no say about what happens in the country in which I choose to live.  And I understand that – I don’t think that just because I live here I should automatically be given the right to vote here.  But still, it sometimes gives me pause.

When moving to Ireland progressed from possibility to reality, I really struggled with the fact that I was moving to a country where abortion is illegal, where a woman does not have the right to choose about what happens to her own body.  And, soon after I arrived in Dublin the tragic and preventable death of Savita Halappanavar brought the abortion issue in Ireland to the forefront.

But this is a fact of life as an ex-pat.  In choosing to move to Ireland, I chose to move someplace where I would not have a voice at the polls, where I cannot lodge my assent or dissent on issues – many of which are very important to me.  This is a sacrifice I have chosen to make and with which I must live.

However, that does not mean I must sit idly by. There is a push amongst the pro-choicers in Ireland for a referendum to at least amend the current abortion law.  This is something I would whole-heartedly support.  I will enthusiastically attend rallies, engage in thoughtful debate, and encourage people to get to the polls.  But that is all I can do.  A ballot will not be cast by me, cannot be cast by me.

But I will still do what I can to make my voice heard.