Silence: Diary of an EU citizen in the UK (12)

Bumped in a (British) colleague after work, we walked together to the train station and caught the same train to New Street.  She was suffering post-referendum stress disorder, she said. I nodded. We listed the symptoms and our fears for the uncertain future in front of us. Many of them were shared; some specific to our positions as British citizen and newly othered EU national, respectively.

We crossed to the university campus and reached the train station. We sat on a bench, she spoke increasingly passionately about what pro-EU supporters should do now and the need to find ways to channel the dismay so many are experiencing since last Friday. I replied with my dismay at the disastrous situation in the Labour party and the sense of abandonment and betrayal I felt from a leadership that officially endorsed the ‘remain’ side, but probably celebrated the referendum result on Friday morning.

The train came. The conversation continued along the same lines, but I observed myself becoming quieter and quieter.

My voice dried in my mouth.

The talk became more like a monologue, I nodded but was watchful (paranoia is one of the symptoms we discussed). I felt increasingly uncomfortable: worried my voice could make me a target of abuses and angry with myself for letting a bunch of racists terrorising me and many others into silence, anxious for the future that lies ahead for this country and those of us who don’t know if they are still allowed to belong as equal to the UK.

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9 thoughts on “Silence: Diary of an EU citizen in the UK (12)

  1. I have a partner from a (non-EU) European state. He is now a British national but he feels exactly the same about speaking in public. I spoke to him by phone earlier this morning, he was outside and speaking quietly into the phone for fear of what some passer-by might say to him. It’s frightening and very sad. He is now even suggesting that we change our children’s surnames out of a fear that their name marks them as ‘different’ (they have his family name).

    • Gayle, I’ll probably apply for citizenship myself but I’ve a name, an accent and a history which stay with me (which I’m proud of). But I had a similar conversation with my wife about our children’s name.

  2. I think I am still in shock and struggling to make sense of how quickly everything seems to be unravelling. But I also (I think?) retain some optimism that Parliament will have the sense not to actually allow Brexit to proceed. And I am putting my signature to anything and attending any demonstration/march/event which calls for that! That doesn’t of course help the horrible feelings of unease which we all, but especially those who, thanks to the results of the referendum and subsequent rise in racist incidents, have now been made to feel so unwelcome. I can only say that I, and everyone I know personally, stand in solidarity with you all (little comfort I know).

    • Thanks – one the consequences of the referendum is that we (EU nationals) rely more than ever before on you (British citizens and voters) right now, so your solidarity is very welcome!

  3. Most of us are right behind the EU citizens and ashamed of what is going on by the minority who think it is right to behave in this very “un-British” manner. I have always been a proud European and am horrified by the events that are going on.

  4. “A leadership that officially endorsed the ‘remain’ side, but probably celebrated the referendum result on Friday morning.” Reading suprised and the more worried. Nationalism, violence and discrimination internationally and constantly growing, maybe something we filed soon in the past, too soon. And I am thinking with a bitterness feeling to our period as university students, frequently mocked when investigating such themes in the end of ’90s…

  5. Brexit certainly had elements of racism, but the bigger picture is that of Britain’s colonial past and the country’s failure to come to terms with the loss of empire, as well as the delusion post-colonial delusions drawn from the outcome of the second world war and the 1966 World Cup. The country went on believing that it was the best at everything (police, schools, universities, museums, television, humour, soccer, diplomacy, even racism and colonialism themselves) but in reality found itself increasingly outsmarted by pesky ‘foreigners’, both at home and abroad. One telling case in point: Basil Fawlty’s heroic status in popular culture. So easy for the Brits to identify with a racist and sexist snob with no sense of his own failings.

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