I think we can all agree that we are sick to death of the very word Brexit, let alone what it means for all aspects of our society. Now well over a year after the shock result, we have political flip flopping, social anxiety and a sense of confusion on a daily basis.
I was and am definitely a remainer, but it is the divisive nature of what has happened since then than turns my stomach. Aggression from both sides has left me yearning for a time before a misguided and delusional David Cameron thought he’d thoroughly mis-judge the national feeling and then do a runner after he’d kicked over the spittoon on the way back into the bar.
What I couldn’t bear about Brexit was the excuse it seemingly gave people to be outright bigots. People who voted to leave the EU for the most part are not in any way bigoted but as usual, the bad apples rotten it up for everyone. Particularly the older generation who mostly voted for Brexit became far more vocal and we all have family members who decided that the years of us telling them ‘you can’t say that’ could suddenly have a free for all.
One such person was my own father. About three years ago he was diagnosed the myeloma, a type of cancer that affects the blood and the bones. His spine had developed holes in nine of his vertebrae and his doctors couldn’t believe he was even standing up. After an experimental treatment using his own stem cells, six months in a back brace and seemingly endless trips to the chemo ward, he was declared in partial remission. Myeloma is a slow growing cancer that unfortunately cannot be eliminated so he has to have three monthly check-ups.
Now, my dad is never a man I would describe as a racist. He has worked tirelessly his whole life with the public without discrimination or bigotry. He went from selling insurance to studying at uni to become a social worker to being a local councillor. I have nothing but respect for the man and I’m sure having me as a son wasn’t plain sailing.
The older generation can often get into a pattern of disapproval and a dislike for change. I can only describe it as a case of the ‘Meldrews’. That classic old BBC show One Foot In The Grave with the ever moaning curmudgeon-with-a-heart Victor Meldrew and his long suffering wife. The thing is when you let everything wind you up, you find yourself in a state of permanent frustration, seeing the world as a series of irritating people and events that are sent to madden you further.
So on the way to his latest check-up he wasn’t making it easy, moaning at everyone and everything that looked out of place if we were living in 1960’s Britain. I rolled my eyes and thought ‘moany old Dad hates these appointments’ which is why he was having this particular attack of the Meldrews. After a sobering few hours waiting, once again, in the cancer ward we were shown into his latest specialist’s surgery for us to be given the inevitable news that the cancer was slowly creeping back in.
What struck me was the awesome care and intelligence of the myeloma oncologist, a wonderful middle-aged woman with a thick Greek accent. She talked about blood and cancer levels and what she thought would be the next step. She was positive whilst delivering bad news and hopeful for the future of his treatment.
Trying to ‘lighten the mood’, my dad decided to bring up the subject of Brexit. He’s a man that likes to have a laugh at the most inopportune moments and perhaps he thought this was the way, what with Greece’s ‘comedy’ collapsed economy and her clear national pride. The conversation that ensued enthralled me. What started as a tactless joke became a lesson in humility and disappointment.
The doctor that was helping my father to come to terms with and possibly extend his life spoke about her own fears, her own experiences of abuse within a changed United Kingdom. I saw my dad change in front of me. How could he ever think such xenophobic thoughts about not only our neighbours, but the people who are actually going to save his life?
The look of emotion on her face said it all and upon leaving he looked at me, not with the fear of mortality that was present on the way in but the shame that he’d propagated such a feeling of exclusion and malice and that had indirectly hurt someone who was trying to give him hope.
‘Never again,’ he said to me, ‘Will I speak ill of Europeans that come here and are not just part of our community but add to it, make it better. I’m embarrassed for what I’ve said to you in the past my son, and never again will I act like that.’ He has stuck to his word and I don’t think I could be more proud. He said accepting the changes to his country and seeing the good in them rather than feeling angry has taken a huge weight of his shoulders and released a great deal of stress he was holding onto. No-one’s too old to change their views and it shouldn’t take a disaster to do it.