OK, Brexit and Trump have shown me something. There are millions more racists, misogynists, homophobes, religiophobes and general bigots in this world than I ever imagined.
Yes, it’s scary that Farage and Johnson won with the campaign aimed at the lowest common denominator. It’s terrifying that Trump’s going to be in control of a superpower on the same type of platform, the same bombastic, superior and hateful attitude to the different.
But do you know what terrifies me more? What makes me sick to the very pit of my stomach? That the millions of people who voted for that are out there. And who knows, might even be reading this.
Let me make this clear. If you support these people and their ilk then, whether you’re bigoted or not, you are supporting bigotry. And you’re helping to create a world where the rest of us live in fear. (A more detailed argument is elsewhere on my blog.)
Do you know why the safety pin became such a big movement? Because bigots don’t wear badges. Minority groups can’t see at a glance who is safe and who isn’t. I say this as a victim of queerbashing, as a disabled gay man. I’m lucky though, I’m an upper working/lower middle class white man in a predominantly white country.
I’ve never faced sexism. As an agnostic I’ve never been the victim of theophobia, and as a native of the country I live in I’ve never experienced racism. I have however lived with quite an extreme version of the bigotry that exists in this country. My parents supported the BNP. (I’m using the past tense as I’ve not spoken to them in around 20 years.)
I was raised to think that people of colour came in three groups, Pakis, Niggers and Chinks. I was raised to believe that homosexuality was filthy and disgusting, that they should all be put against a wall and shot. Can you imagine what that does to a young gay man, raising him to hate himself?
That hatred stays with you, forever. I’m lucky that I’ve been able to turn it around. I use that to form my reaction. My father is my role model. I think about how he would react and do exactly the opposite. But I thought that he was a minority.
I left home at 16, not through personal choice. And I found my friends and realised that the world was filled with amazing people. That acceptance and tolerance was a much more fulfilling approach to life. And I’ve lived in that echo chamber for two decades. So I assumed that it was what the real world was.
But the votes in June and yesterday have opened my eyes. I want to make this absolutely clear, if you voted for Brexit or supported Trump. If you share EDL/BNP memes or vote Conservative/UKIP/Republican, you are normalising their rhetoric of hate.
You are making this world more accepting of people like my parents, like the group of kids who jumped on me and beat me for being gay,breaking my nose, cheekbone and glasses in the field that my living room overlooked. Like the people who hate the immigrants, who daub offensive slogans on synagogues and mosques.
Because this is what they’ve been waiting for, people who represent their views, people who encourage it with their language: “Take back control”, ” Make America great again”, “Britain is full”, ” We need to look after our own”.
And then they get power, they get the responsibility. But they do look after their own. The rich get richer and the poor suffer. The vulnerable face cuts to the health systems that keep them alive and the benefits that support them. They are labelled “scroungers” by the media and treated as an underclass. Their lives are filmed and watched as entertainment -poverty becomes a way to make us feel superior, to give us the opportunity to sneer at those who are worse off. It’s a taste of the way that the 1% feels all the time.
And if you fall into one or more of the underclasses then you become conscious of the atmosphere that this world order creates. Oppressive, bigoted, fearful and hateful. And you know that it’s directed at you. Your friends will say that you’re the exception. They didn’t mean people like you. They meant the others. The ones who don’t work, or the ones that flaunt their queerness. Not you.
But they are like me. I haven’t been able to work for two weeks due to my AS flaring. What happens if I can’t get it under control? Do I become one of them then? Or if I suddenly decide to wear rainbows and kiss every man I meet?
Actions speak louder than words, and the millions who vote for this right wing rhetoric are amplifying its signal. You are creating a world where I’m scared, where many millions of people are terrified of where this ends. And if you could/can vote but didn’t/don’t – you’re the silence that this hatred can fill. And we’ve seen where that can lead. I know that I’m fulfilling Godwin’s law, but here and now I don’t believe that this is hyperbole or over-dramatization. We are literally giving our countries over to the far right both politically and socially. And only we can resist it. I know that it’s scary, that it’s terrifying, but we need to keep making sure that our voices are heard.
So, I’ll leave you with a song that helped me get through my teenage years and I hope that you remember how strong you are, and that you’re not alone, no matter what these fuckers say. . .