Sunday, 26 June 2016
Walking through the village, wearing my cassock this morning, I was approached by a woman I know who was walking her dog. Born in France, but half-British, she told me she has never felt so displaced and disoriented, not recognising the current atmosphere of the country of her adoption, which, she says, seems to have changed beyond recognition. She now feels a stranger here, and intends to re-apply for a French passport.
I commiserated, not recognising the mood in my country either, and realising that the future seems to belong to those of a very different viewpoint.
We shook hands, she went in one direction and I continued on my way to church in the morning sunshine.
The weather forecast was for rain later.
I should explain: Europe is the great fault-line which now runs across British politics and society. Many of the commentators I read and respect have taken another view altogether on this issue.
But, as a convinced 'European' since the days of the first referendum in 1975, when although too young to vote, I helped campaign for our membership of the EEC (as it then was), I am in a very small minority in the company I have been keeping, and sometimes the stridency of their anti-EU stance has appalled me. Because of that I have felt increasingly ill at ease over the last months with the company that, even in a very minor way indeed, I have been keeping.
The founding ideal of the European project was good and noble, bringing together nations riven by warfare and the unspeakable horrors of the twentieth century. We all know that the EU itself has grown and changed, moving away, as all our societies have, from the Christian Democracy of its founding fathers to a more secularised entity which is reluctant even to acknowledge its Christian roots.
But it is nothing short of a delusion and a mirage to think that Britain outside the European Union will return to a more Christian vision of society and culture. The indications are that the reverse could well be the case.
Some of the rhetoric directed at the EU by the 'Leave' campaign has been regrettable and, in one case, unforgivable, even in the context of the journalistic hyperbole which is its author's stock-in-trade. Undoubtedly these kind of statements have helped poison the wells of nation life, and fuel the incidents now being reported on our streets.
And it's ironic that a campaign to restore the sovereignty of Parliament should adopt the referendum as the means for achieving its goal. 'Direct democracy,' popular decisions made by referendum and plebiscite, as we are seeing, is - to a far greater degree than the normal workings of representative democracy - something by its nature heavily dependent upon the integrity and truthfulness of those who seek to direct its debates, and the reliability of the information available to those who participate in its processes.
Moreover, it is capable of unleashing a reckless, misdirected and incoherent rage which is destructive of the civility of political discourse and inimical to calm and reasonable deliberation. Such an anger has been unleashed. We have not been so divided for generations, nor has our future looked so uncertain.
Perhaps it's time here on this blog to recognise that ....