I first wrote this post yesterday morning but felt I had to update it following the shocking murder of MP Jo Cox in Birstall, Yorkshire. Not all the facts are known about her attack and death yet but it is looking likely that she was the victim of a politically motivated act of hate. Her attacker has been named as Thomas Mair and it is alleged he was a member of far right groups, the Southern Poverty Law Centre (SPLC) who monitor hate crimes and racist activities in the US also report he paid for literature that demonstrated how to make homemade bombs and guns.
What really sickens me though is the way racism and xenophobia has been allowed to enter mainstream politics, encouraged by an increasingly right-wing Press. It has become even more obvious during the EU referendum and it comes as no surprise that as a result immigrants and refugees have been dehumanised. This video shows English and Welsh football supporters in Lille taunting what appear to be refugee children by throwing money at the ground for them to scrabble for. And this brutish arrogance, this is why Brexit terrifies me.
And that, more than any economic argument, more even than fears over workers' rights is what terrifies me. Remain voters are often described as traitors, and unpatriotic yet it's this video that is being watched on news sites across the world. Is that what represents us now? Is that what we're supposed to be proud of?
I love living in this country. I love that we live in a democracy, imperfect though it may be. I love that most British people are kind, compassionate and giving. Just look at the responses to appeals following international disasters, or how communities come together after flooding destroys homes. I love our humour, I love our landscapes and our mix of diverse cultures, and I am immensely proud that we stood alongside other nations against fascism during the Second World War. That's why I hate what we are becoming, an insular and bitter nation, suspicious of foreigners, even those in greatest need. That's not my country. It's not just in Britain that fear and hate is taking hold of course. It was only this week we saw another act of terrorism, this time against the LGBTQ community when Omar Mateen killed 49 people and killed scores more at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. This has to stop. When we give too much credence to those who blame immigrants for problems caused by politicians, suggest refugees could be terrorists, and transgender people might be paedophiles, we are giving in to hate. Hate feeds hate which leads to violence and ultimately terrorism. Stop listening to people like Trump, Farage and Murdoch. Every suggestion that immigrants are ruining the NHS, that LGBTQ people are subverting our children, that Muslims are trying to inflict Sharia Law on us all, that refugees are just after our benefits, are drip-feeding us hate and making people angry. Stop them legitimising hatred. Embrace diversity, celebrate our differences because through them we learn. Love the fact that people choose to migrate here, to pay their taxes, to contribute to our culture. Be proud that refugees see us as a safe haven, free from the horrors they're fleeing. Learn about other religions, realise that fundamentalist believers are not representative and most people, whether Christian, Muslim, Jew, Sikh, Hindu or Atheist do not wish harm on others. Celebrate love, whether that love is between a man and a woman, two men or two women. Love is love. Accept that what you learned about gender growing up wasn't the whole truth, that people have a right to identify as they wish and that they deserve our love, support and acceptance not our misplaced fear. We need to remind ourselves that to disagree doesn't have to mean to hate, that the name-calling and accusations aren't debate and will lead to nothing but more anger.
I don't know what will happen if the UK votes to leave the EU, I hope my worst fears aren't confirmed but right now I'm scared that like toddlers having a tantrum when things don't go their way, those who have been told that immigration is to blame will only react with more violence when they realise their pure blood utopia isn't going to be realised.
I am British, I am European and I am a human. It's that last group that should matter the most.