The news can no longer depress me. 147 students slaughtered at a Kenyan university, okay. Israel cuts off water supply to the West Bank during Ramadan, typical Netanyahu. The largest mass killing in modern United States history at a gay night club in Orlando, Florida, shocking but not completely unexpected. The government subsequently refusing to enact gun control, definitely nothing new there – if the slaughtering of children could not sway them, nothing will. The list of atrocities happening all over the globe is endless. When something terrible happens, we mourn those we’ve lost but are also extremely conscious of the all the other lives being torn away from loved ones all across the world. The vast majority of us who have come of age in the wake of the Iraq Invasion and the Internet boom have also become desensitised to it all. But when a pillar in global diversity crumbled to the hallow echoes of spiteful xenophobic rhetoric, I found myself trembling. The United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union seemingly has set a precedent for the damning times to come.
As someone who grew up in the US and now lives in London, I see the UK as kind of like the US’ version of Regina George’s mother. It tries to be that cool parent that’s down with the times and will do almost anything to appease its bratty teenager but, at the end of the day, it has always been socially mindful and fairly level-headed. Only now, our keep calm and carry on parent has set an unquestionably poor example for its impressionable child. The Leave campaign functioned similarly to Donald Trump’s, albeit in a far more British manner with insinuating posters and false promises blazoned across buses rather than outright hate speech. Nevertheless, their messages remain eerily the same: We must take back our country and make it great again by getting rid of those who have helped and continue to help build it.
This anti-immigration platform has been lapped up those most direly affected by Thatcherism and Reaganomics, and their children who are now struggling with a broken political system, growing austerity measures and education being seen as a privilege rather than a right. We have been promised change dozens of times to no avail, but to blame the freedom of movement for the harsh effects of ill-conceived policies is wholeheartedly wrong. When Nigel Farage makes a disparaging comment like “It’s time to take back our country”, we must ask “From whom?” Even the Queen is not a native Briton. She is descended from German royalty, and then married someone from the Greek and Danish royal families which means the future King of England is the child of immigrants. Meanwhile Donald Trump plans to ban all Muslims and build a wall between the US and Mexico, yet he himself is the son of a Scottish immigrant. The irony of the situation is painted all over the wall in many, many coats.
We as a society, both British and American, have gained far more than we have lost due to immigration. To say that anti-immigration will help ‘restore’ our respective countries is reprehensible when immigrants help make the very fibre of our lives. Think about it this way: Where would the UK be without korma and cheap Polish beer? Would the US survive without tequila and ramen noodles? Pizza, wine and chocolate are all imports, yet they are now staples in many of our lives. Immigration helps bridge cultural barriers and enriches all of our lives. As well, especially with higher education becoming more easily accessible, upward mobility is on the trend. We need immigrants as much as they need us – they fill the gaps in our workforce and build businesses or obtain high education, which then works to help create jobs, and so on. It functions like cyclical conveyor belt bringing in labour to create more. Yet, thanks to the campaigning of the spiteful Right, already immigrants in the UK face backlash. In the lead up to the vote, an Italian woman, who has been living in the UK for the past 50 years and has run a successful coffee shop for the past 18, was asked “Wouldn’t you prefer to go back to your own country?” – to which she replied, “This is my country.” The morning after the Leave vote, a German man bordering a train to the West Country was aggressively told by an Englishman, “Have a nice stay in our country.” – that’s not to mention the dozens of other hate crimes committed against immigrants in the five days since initially penning this essay… By voting to leave the EU, the UK (more specifically the English and the Welsh) have proven their own assumed superiority complex – but the United Kingdom is no longer an empire. It is an island, and they’re about to find out exactly what that might entail.
However, the American public has until November before we head to the polls, and we can and must learn from the effects of Brexit. By buying into a campaign based purely on misconstrued facts about immigration and the EU, following the Leave vote, the pound sterling dramatically fell and is now the lowest its ever been in 30 years. While a Trump presidency would probably not see the same initial dramatic shift in economic stability, it could instead face a steady decline into chaos as offended countries withdraw from trade and companies attempt to distance themselves. What would the dollar’s worth be then? The narrow outcome of this referendum has left the UK deeply divided, but the country as a whole might soon cease to exist as Scotland is preparing another referendum for independence and Northern Irish politicians are calling for a unification with the southern Republic, even Spain is calling for joint control of Gibraltar after the territory overwhelming opted to stay in the Union by 95.9%. Trump as president could see the dissolution of the Union as people begin to truly invoke of the Second Amendment to raise militias and force secession, or to stage a revolution – who knows. Now faced with the reality of their situation, many who voted out of the EU are already regretting their decision. In the coming months, we will see the full extent of the UK’s exit from the EU, and Brexit could very well serve as a warning against a Trump America.
The whole idea of “Let’s make America great again” begs the question, what period in US history is Trump referring to – during the colonial era when we were British subjects, when slavery was legal, the near dissolution of the Union followed by Jim Crow laws, the Great Depression, the isolationism of the 1930s, Japanese internment in World War II, or Cold War era America? Any way you look at it, making America great again would also entail reverting back on decades of hard-fought civil rights reform. Since Trump descended down that mystical escalator and declared his candidacy, hate crimes in America have gone up proving that the anti-immigration rhetoric does nothing but build resentment. We hate them for taking our jobs, we hate them for thinking we’re taking their jobs, back and forth, back and forth – the pattern will continue on leading to an increase in attacks from both sides. The future is uncertain and that’s terrifying (trust me I know, broke university student here) – but blaming immigrants is not the solution. They are equally perturbed by the current state of affairs. Boris as PM, Trump as President, Putin, Kim Jong-Un, Daesh – the world has the possibility of becoming a truly terrifying place. This is a plea to especially to the older generations: Millennials and Generation Z are the most racially and culturally diverse, a fact that will only increase once we become parents as well. Please don’t ostracise us and future generations, we stand to inherit the world you are currently shaping and we don’t need it to be one steeped in hate and resentment.
Times of economic boom and stability in US history come from mass industrialisation during and following wartime, or from major social reforms. While factory jobs are increasingly being moved out of country, the solution can be found in cracking down on banks and tax evasion, bolstering the number of domestic jobs through fixing the crumbling infrastructure, encouraging agriculture and implementing other New Deal-esque policies. While Trump’s opposition candidate might not implement all, if any, of those reforms, Hillary Clinton still poses a far better option. She might not drastically alter the current system, but at least she is not reliant on tapping into the most hateful and fearful aspects of human nature. The status quo is irrecoverably broken and needs to be completely overhauled but, at least under Hillary, the stability of our everyday lives will continue to chug along whereas under Trump it will be a magnificent free-for-all shootout as the country is engulfed mad king’s wildfire. Brexit has justified allowing xenophobic hate speech to dictate policy, but the US does not have to follow the UK’s poor example. Now, more than ever, we must aim to find common ground and appreciate both our new and our old neighbours for what they have to offer. Otherwise, I worry that another country known for being a cultural melting pot will fall to the wayside as hate and fear continues to spread like an inferno throughout the globe.