First Brexit, now Trump – trying to make sense of a mad world

So how do you process something like this morning? Despite having that sinking feeling in my stomach just like I did with Brexit, it’s hard to make sense of what happened. We all knew it was a possibility but the reality seemed so completely beyond our understanding that we just switched off from it. Or we didn’t think about what it actually meant. But here we are, waking up to this strange, new, back-to-front world we live in.

I was out this morning with some American friends who I can only describe as shell-shocked. Oh yes, I know that feeling well. For me it really is 24 June all over again. Going to bed feeling optimistic, the polls looking good. Waking up to – what?! Has this actually happened? In truth I woke at 3.45am and looked at my BBC news app. I could already see results coming in – and that it didn’t look good. It was early days, people kept saying. Exit polls showed Clinton had it in the bag. But there was nothing overwhelmingly in her favour – it was all way too close, going to much in Trump’s direction.

And I knew, I knew then what was about to happen. I knew because we are five months ahead of the US. We have had five months to get used to this new world order, the anger and the post-truth politics. The total denial of anything that makes any sense. The refusal to admit they don’t have an argument or reason. They just want….what? Something. Something intangible – change? Their identity back? To feel like they still matter? I don’t understand it but then I am someone who doesn’t see people who are different to myself as something to be scared of – I welcome them. I love diversity and think we can only learn from others who come from a different place, have a different outlook on life or live a different way.

So I knew that this poison that has infiltrated our shores has reached America too. Why wouldn’t it? We are all part of the same globalised society now. We bounce off each other constantly, we read the same information and watch the same programmes and hear the same lies from the same sorts of people. With my American friends we discussed which was worse – Trump or Brexit. To them, understandably this soon after an unexpected win for Trump, nothing could be worse. But for me I feel that at least they get another election in four years time. We are (possibly) stuck with Brexit forever.

But in the end actually it doesn’t matter which is “worse” because they are both part of the same thing. Brexit, Trump and just as scarily the rise of right-wing parties in Europe. We are all heading in the same direction and at the moment I feel powerless to know what to do about it. I am having to defend my liberal values against people who now think it is ok for men to say what they want about women, it is ok that Muslims should be targeted and expelled from their home country, it is ok to cheer at the notion that all Mexicans are rapists. Many people who voted for Trump will say they are not racists or misogynists, that they were voting AGAINST something as much as FOR it (just like in the UK) – but in so doing they have enabled the hatred to rise. They now need to own it. If they really meant they didn’t vote for that then they damn well need to condemn it every time they see or hear something they don’t like. Because the small majority of people who really do believe these things are on the up and they are not going to go away.

So anger and confusion, Americans like us Brits will now be stuck in the culture shock cycle of this new place they arrived at this morning. You will be stuck in it for a while but I hope that you get some sort of clear direction at some point as to where you are going.

In the meantime I have no idea if this will help at all but just something I wanted to share. As I stood outside our gate this morning with our dog, having just put the children on their school bus. I saw the garbage man rummaging through next doors bins. He found some old, flat Coca Cola in a bottle and drank it. He found some wrecked, filthy trousers and neatly folded them up and put them aside. He then put all the rubbish back in the bin and moved on. He probably has no idea there has been an election in the US, nor who Donald Trump is. All he cares about is where to get food from. Yes things are awful right now and I feel pretty wretched but for 90% of the world life will go on just as before. We are all terrified for our future but at least we don’t have to go through bins just to find food.

Expats and the vote

Well it’s certainly been an interesting few days here in the UK. As we still are at the moment – the United Kingdom. Although with SNP pretty well sweeping the board in Scotland, I am not sure how united we will be for much longer. And this country will be further divided by the fact that it looks almost certain we will have an EU in/out referendum within the couple of years.

One group of people who will almost certainly want a say in that will be British expats – especially those living in Europe. But, going on the many, many comments I saw on various forums and pages yesterday and the day before, that is one group who – at the moment – is feeling very disenfranchised.

EU flag

What happened? It appears that the postal voting system just isn’t working. Because the voting papers couldn’t be sent out until after the final candidates had been announced, they just weren’t reaching people overseas in time for them to have their say. There are those who would question why someone living in France or Turkey or Australia or Burkina Faso SHOULD have a say in what happens here in the UK. But don’t forget, many expats are only there temporarily, many have children who will be educated back here, still recieve pensions here, still get paid (and pay taxes) here. Just because you live in another country doesn’t mean you don’t care about what happens in your home country. And there are millions of Brits who DO live in another country – and who could have made a difference to the way the vote went.

british flag

So with the possibilty of an EU referendum coming up, my recommendation to any overseas Brits would be – this time, don’t leave it to chance. At the moment I don’t think we can trust the postal system so my suggestion would be to trust a friend or relative instead and get a proxy vote. Whether we stay in or whether we withdraw from the EU is just too important a topic not to have a vote on. I still don’t know what it will mean for expats who live in EU countries, this is a topic I now intend to start investigating. But whatever happens, make sure you have your say!

Are you a British expat and if so were you able to vote? Or are you an expat from another country – in which case, what happens with your vote?