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This article was written on 29 Jun 2016, and is filled under Uncategorised.

Rediscovering kindness and a sort of courage

Deciding that you’re going to be against racism and hatred in Mid Sussex is a bit like deciding that you’re in favour of large blocs of colour in the Rothko Room at the Tate Modern, and probably about as middle class. I haven’t seen a person who wasn’t white for about three days and the closest I’ll get to real anger is taking someone’s car parking space in Waitrose. Occasionally, someone gets angry at Pease Pottage services, but that’s about it.

That said, I am against all forms of racism and xenophobia. That this needs saying is the product of the last few days, when I briefly gave way to absolute screaming hopelessness and wanted to be invisible in the eyes of my fascist country, lest I offend it. This was accompanied by the kind of intense and yet aimless anger that seizes you for days until it shakes itself jerkily to pieces for want of having an outlet and leaves you feeling spent and slightly foolish. That phase of becoming reconciled to the referendum result, for that’s what this is about, seems to be over.

I still dislike Vote Leave supporters with a passion and will still block anyone who voted to leave the EU whenever I happen across them on Twitter. People say that you have to respect their views. Well, I don’t. I think they’re imbecilic and hateful, precisely because fascism is always imbecilic and hateful. In the same way that I wouldn’t respect Hitler’s decision to gas millions of people he thought were undesirable and strut around the place like a poltroon, I don’t respect people who are essentially in the same camp. They’re fascists, whether they’re prepared to admit it or not.

Previously, though, I wanted to be quiet about this. I didn’t want to draw attention to myself as being opposed to the simple-minded fascism of Vote Leave. And now, I realise, I have no choice. The people I respect who were in the German resistance to Hitler didn’t bugger off to Switzerland at the first sign of trouble, for all that I would have done. They stayed, resisted and dissented as much as they could, and some of them even took the law into their own hands. This country isn’t, yet, Hitler’s Germany, for all that it is on the same road. So how can I call myself human if the danger is lesser and yet still I do nothing?

The answer is that I can’t. If I saw a racist or xenophobic attack in front of me, I know that I’d have no choice but to intervene. To say otherwise would be like deciding to change my hair colour using only the power of my mind. I’m wearing a safety pin as I write this, knowing full well that it’s a tacit admission of the fact I have been blind to the problems faced by people of colour and of different nationalities in the past. It is an imperfect gesture. However. Saying that I will intervene and wearing this safety pin are, right now, all I can do.

Other things will present themselves in time. An email has just arrived from a refugees’ organisation that works in Calais. Someone on Twitter was gracious enough to send me the details of numerous anti-fascist organisations and I’ll soon be checking out those as well. In my anger,  said that I’d stop donating blood platelets. That was bollocks. I’ll carry on donating because nobody deserves to die for my anger. I’ll sign back on to the organ donation register and slowly start picking up all the other things I’d dropped, intemperately, because if there’s one thing we need right now, it’s kindness.

The Vote Leave haters can hate. They can abuse people on buses, they can sing vile songs about Poles and gay people and throw excrement at people’s houses. I can’t do this. Christ commanded me to love people, which I can do, albeit with all the imperfection that comes with being human. He didn’t command me to hate people because they came from different countries or had a different coloured skin. Other people can do that. I have to love them and stand up for them, no matter if I’m in a minority. Every part of me tells me that I have to.

Which brings me back to the Mid Sussex question. There’s not a huge call for these sentiments down here. Like being in Dad’s Army, it’s to be permanently patrolling the Novelty Rock Emporium in search of German parachutists who never arrive because they were never going to, or planning secret weapons that will never be built. It’s substantially pointless. For all that, these are my values and these are my principles, even if I’ve spent the past week trying to deny them or fearfully squash them down out of sight. Mine is a shabby, imperfect kindness and if I do seem someone being confronted by someone with a heart full of hate, I’ll be crapping myself, but I’ll have to do what I can. It’s all that I have.

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