Do you ever wonder why you even bother? Why you talk about the important stuff, try to get your point across, highlight the fear and prejudice being perpetrated around you, only to go unheard and ignored? Why you try to promote love, only for people to choose hate?
That’s pretty much how I feel right now. The European elections have seen gains for the fascist Golden Dawn in Greece, a win for the National Front in France and, closer to home, the populist UKIP in the UK. These parties have flourished on three big selling points; anti-EU sentiment, anti-establishment rhetoric and, strongest of all, anti-immigration policies.
Sorry… not anti-immigration. I mean anti-immigrant.
There is a huge difference. Anti-immigration, which forms part of their policy (singular), is the idea that letting too many people into the country causes an excessive strain on public spending and services, meaning that there is less to get around for those already in the country. It’s an understandable argument, although when immigrants pay more in tax than they take out of the economy and are statistically less likely to claim benefits, it’s also a poor argument.
Because it’s a poor argument, these parties rely on the latter tactic. Anti-immigrant. We should feel uncomfortable about having Romanian neighbours because they are mainly criminals. There are 25 million out of work Europeans who all want your job. Foreign immigrants are diluting our culture, identity and way of life. This isn’t an argument against immigration as a concept, but a tactic which uses fear of the unknown, in this case people from other countries, to bypass the logical arguments against them and automatically leave many people feeling that something as a “bad thing” because it is to be feared and worried about.
I have friends who genuinely are scared of “what is happening to our country” and the “erosion of the British identity”. However, I haven’t heard what actually us happening and how this erosion would be a negative thing.
There are as many UK citizens living in other EU countries as EU citizens in the UK. The main difference is the multicultural aspect which, to many of us, is actually a positive. The rich diversity of human life coexisting on one small set of islands, learning from and teaching each other about language, custom, food, art, music, fashion and so much more is surely to be celebrated. This isn’t an erosion of identity, but an evolution of it.
Yet, many have chosen to swallow the line from these populist and far right politicians. The gains they have made have been dramatic (although not quite the “earthquake” the media keep stating) and the mainstream parties are talking about learning lessons from this. I pray thus means how to fight back, not how to bow down to them, but I’m not holding out any hope.
One of the lines used a lot recently is how the UK is a Christian country.
Great! Let’s act like one, then.
“And now I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34 GNBDC)
“I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me a drink; I was a stranger and you received me in your homes” (Matthew 25:35 GNBDC)
“He must be hospitable and love what is good. He must be self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.” (Titus 1:8 GNBDC)
“That means you must also love immigrants because you were immigrants in Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10:19 CEB)
Is that clear enough? Love, hospitality, caring for strangers in a strange land. This doesn’t mean ignoring immigrants who are criminals or a threat to our security. Those issues must always be addressed. But we must also treat people as people as people. Human beings. God’s children. And we must fight against this increasing culture of hatred amongst our politicians, media and, yes, ourselves.
We have to fight back. We have to campaign, speak out, argue, educate and vote against this politics of evil. We have to stand together, act in love, but in utter defiance against hatred. We have to make this the “Christian country” that people queue up to tell us that we are or aren’t.
This isn’t leftie ranting. I’m appealing to left and right wing people. Religious and atheist. Young and old. Man and woman. Gay and straight. English, Irish, Scottish Welsh and any of the many nationalities who inhabit our islands and the rest of Europe. Vote against the EU or for it. Vote against established parties or for them. Just please, please fight against prejudice in all its forms. We are all better than that.