Well… this week did not go the way I wanted.
As you may recall from my previous post, I had two looming events, one personal – the imminent expiration of my employment authorisation – and one public – the Brexit referendum. I was stressed, but hopeful.
I am no longer hopeful.
On Thursday, 17 million of my fellow Brits voted to leave the European Union. I watched the results at a trivia night, checking my phone between rounds and doing subversive cross-stitch to keep myself calm. It didn’t work.
I don’t really understand what happened. It doesn’t make any sense to me. I understand why so many voters are angry. But leaving the EU isn’t going to solve any of those problems. It’s just precipitated a crisis that is going to take years to sort out. The pound hit the lowest point in 31 years. It’s going to hit property prices, pensions, jobs, public funding. Things are going to get worse, in economic terms, for millions across the country, including pretty much every person I know living in the UK. And, of course, me. I might have to get Irish citizenship when we move back to Ireland, as I may lose the right to live and work in any EU state. Right now, I just don’t know. I still can’t fathom that this decision was made without an actual plan in place.
I have never felt more disconnected from my country. As anyone who knows me well will tell you, I have a very ambivalent relationship with Britain. There are many things that I love about my strange little island, but I haven’t lived there in 8 years, and it hasn’t felt like my home for over a decade. Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised that I don’t know it that well anymore. The United Kingdom seems to be anything but united right now, with Scotland and Northern Ireland looking to get out, and clear splits between urban/rural areas.
To be honest, that’s not what scares me most. What scares me is that this vote legitimises racists. It encourages fascists under the guise of “pro-British” sentiment. It means that non-white Brits are being yelled at in the streets, being told to ‘go back home’ even though this IS their home. The anger of working-class white Brits has been underestimated, and is now being directed towards anyone who doesn’t look like them, because they believe that they have taken their jobs, their money, their freedoms. In truth, as it has always been, it’s the wealthy elites who have screwed them over. And now it’s going to get worse.
In Ireland, they have referenda quite often – it’s necessary if you want to make any constitutional changes. It can be complicated, but as a result they ensure that every voter has access to solid information about what will change depending on their vote. Clear, non-biased information is sent to every household. The British electorate did not get clear information at ANY stage of this. Already, the Leave campaign has withdrawn most of its promises. I can’t see how this can get anything other than worse.
And then, there’s my personal problem. Today, I was not able to go to work as my authorisation document has expired, and USCIS has not processed my renewal yet. On Tuesday, I can ask them where it is, but until then I’m just waiting, and screwing things up for my colleagues and my clients. And there’s nothing I can do, because bureaucracy wins. So I’m at home, binge-watching ‘The Good Wife’ and playing Civ 5 and waiting. And trying not to think about how it feels like everything is falling apart.
But, do you know what’s great? All the people in my life. I said I followed the Brexit results from a trivia night, which was in a gaming lounge I frequent. Literally everyone I know there was commiserating with me, and checking on me, and hugging me when things fell apart. My colleagues have been so supportive, even though me not being able to work and not being able to tell them when I CAN work is incredibly difficult for them. But they’ve helped and pitched in and just been awesome. My friends have joined in my bitching about the government, and bought me beers and given me hugs and kept me going. So although shitty things are happening that are completely out of my control, I have the best people to help me keep my stiff upper lip.
I have no idea what’s going to happen, and I don’t know that things are going to be okay. But I do know I have a lot of fabulous people in my corner. And that makes me smile.