Here, on July 1st, Ottawa was full of people celebrating the diversity of Canadians. Elaine and Piet, visiting us from the Netherlands and experiencing Canada Day In The Nation's Capital for the first time, commented on the striking multi-ethnicity of the good-natured, well-behaved crowds, as did we. Walking up Rideau / Wellington Street onto Parliament Hill in the afternoon, we spotted long African robes, long Indian robes, First Nations' feather head-dresses, mini-skirted cowgirls, east Asian and South American families, veiled Muslim ladies from the middle east, Bengali musicians ... all proudly and excitedly Canadian, so it seems, the children of all colours blowing toy bugles or wearing freebie moose antlers on their heads. When the inevitable cloud-burst came, everyone either huddled in doorways or got soaked to the skin together.
Across the Atlantic, today (July 2nd), London saw an estimated 30,000 young people demonstrating in favour of staying in the EU and vociferously celebrating European unity, even though the referendum has been and gone, against their wishes. Over there, on the last day of campaigning, Gordon Brown said:
The Britain I know is the Britain of Jo Cox. The Britain where people are tolerant, and not prejudiced, and where people hate hate.*Right wing Facebook pages from North America, Britain, Australia, are full of unreferenced video clips of riots, burning flags, "menacing hordes" of Islamic immigrants or refugees, juxtaposed with sentimental pictures of Jesus, such wearisome nonsense. In Germany, PEGIDA's all male, self-appointed chorus in Germany chants, Wir sind das Volk! but they're not.
The day before the British referendum I prepared an over-optimistic, anticipatory blogpost rejoicing that the xenophobes have had their day. And that we'll hear their roars becoming increasingly frenetic as they see their values being overturned. Shocked by the outcome of the referendum, I didn't publish that post, but it ended like this:
... "patriots" who talk of "freedom" apply such words only to themselves; their allegiance is limited and their concept of freedom is very narrow. Their heyday was in the 19th century and their nationalist fervour and fears still belong to the 19th century; we saw the tragic outcome of that sort of thinking in the 20th century wars, but it's the 21st century now, and, like it or not, we are the citizens of a shared world these days and must function as such.In spite of the setback, I have not changed my mind.
* I hope this is what "The 48%" was, and still is, demanding, although I can't be completely sure, because some of them are now quite viciously condemning their compatriots who voted to leave Europe --- condemning the older, more impoverished, less articulate population of Britain, who in many cases have valid grounds for complaint, despite the dismal fact that immigrants are their scapegoats. I hate to admit it, but there are signs of hate and prejudice on the left side of the political spectrum too.