I didn’t sleep last night. It wasn’t sickness or stress. It wasn’t that I wasn’t tired (I really was). It wasn’t that my bed was uncomfortable.
I was angry. Really bloody angry.
I get frustrated, fed up, a bit cheesed off or even snappy at times. Rarely, however, do I feel real anger about anything.
Last night, though, I did.
The message is clear – If you aren’t British then you aren’t welcome here. That’s right, Jonny Foreigner. This isn’t your home. It’s simply a place you get your money from, and we need to make sure you are treated differently to those of us who are native of this land.
This is as hard right as I can remember from a UK government, and it’s seriously scary. We’ve been through the language of “swarms of immigrants” and “bogus asylum seekers”. As many of us said, that was simply the thin end of the wedge.
It’s fair to say, with language you would expect to read on Stormfront and policies to match, we are now firmly in the middle of that wedge, and moving further up as we go.
The Brexit vote has confirmed one thing alone to the Tories, many people fear immigration. Theresa May addressed this in her speech today, attacking the mythical “liberal elite” for finding fears about immigration distasteful.
No, most of us don’t feel quite that way. Fears about immigration are, to a certain extent, understandable. People coming into the country, our communities, with a different language and culture can feel unsettling if you aren’t used to it. Stories in the press about millions coming over, taking jobs, benefits, NHS places, houses etc. can lead to fears. Of course it can.
The issue comes with addressing those fears. I believe that addressing fears should involve allaying fears. Pointing out the many, many benefits of immigration: they pay more tax and claim fewer benefits per person, they are helping to fill major shortages of staff in health care and the hospitality industry, they help us to learn about cultures beyond this small island…
The Tories, however, see addressing fears in a different way. They see it as pandering to those fears. Stoking them with increasingly hateful rhetoric and policies, then using the EU Referendum result as a way to justify those fears. In the same way those on the far right are using the result to legitimise their own bigotry and racism.
The Government often speak of standing up for “British values” or “Christian values”, yet these values they speak so highly of are not the ones I recognise when I think of them. I think of fairness and equality of all people, regardless of gender, race, colour, nationality or creed.
I think of standing up for the vulnerable, the victimised, the poor, the oppressed.
I think of respecting those who work in professions which serve the wider good: health care, education, law and order, rescue and protection.
I think of a culture made up of many cultures over many centuries. Changing and evolving as we grow as one giant melting pot, celebrating the progress we make as we go.
I think of love, the most powerful thing on this planet, sweeping away hatred and fear as it goes. Healing people, communities, cities and nations.
Please, if you truly fear the idea of people coming from other countries, whether for economic reasons or for their own safety, and making their home here I beg you to think again. We learn from each other when we let down the artificial barriers of nationhood we have built around us. We learn customs, languages, festivals, food, ways of creating a caring society we had never thought of before when we realise that there is no us and them. There are just people. Human beings. Ordinary men, women and children.
The language of the Tories, the language of Brexit right now, is a dangerous and frightening path to go down. It is the language, and the policy, of division, inequality, blame, mistrust and hatred.
We are better than that. British people… all people are better than that. Please, let’s be better than the people we are being taken for. Before it’s too late.
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in… Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”
Matthew 25:35, 40