It’s been a tumultuous week and let’s just say that I shed a few tears when I heard the results of the EU referendum. Disappointed. Dumbfounded. Quite simply gutted that we have split from an institution that in my opinion makes us stronger. But then again, I am probably one of those people who some of those voting leave wanted to stick their middle finger up at.
Educated? Check. I have an MA and degree from Durham University. Cosmopolitan? Check. I’ve studied and lived abroad. Privileged? Kinda. I am the result of a grammar school education, where the focus was on academia. What my parents lacked in terms of wealth, they made up for in terms of education, encouraging me at school and university. I’ve also never been particularly patriotic. I couldn’t give two hoots about the Royal family and while my passport says I’m British I’m also part-Italian, can speak French almost fluently and will also have a bash at conversing in Italian and German. And after the news on Friday, I feel more European than ever.
Which brings me to why I am getting hitched in #Italia. Not only is it a beautiful part of the world, but it’s where part of my family come from. Every few years when I was growing up, we would head to Amaro, a small village near Cortina in the Dolomites to see my extended family. We’d play with our distant cousins, swap swear words and head to swim in lakes nearby. We may not have been able to speak exactly the same language but we got on with it, just doing what kids do. I genuinely believe this carved me into a more accepting person with an interest in different cultures. This may be all well and good but what does this have to do with the EU referendum?
Well, it all stems from my dad who was a product of an English/Italian marriage just after World War 2. He doesn’t really talk about it much but I know life was pretty tough for him. As well as not having much money, he also had to put up with racism because his mother was from a country that “fought on the other side”. Pretty tough for a kid I reckon. The EU may not have solved this directly but the fact it was founded on the principles of protecting peace in Europe promotes the ideals of tolerance and acceptance of others. It helped to prevent a different kind of “Project Fear”, one where anybody who is different is a scapegoat for your own misfortune.
Now here we are. It’s day three post-referendum and history is repeating itself. In the confusion that has followed, it has come out that leaving the EU may not stop immigration (surprise, surprise). Some people’s reactions have been ugly, and reminiscent, telling law-abiding, tax-paying British citizens to do…just what they told my father as a kid to do…and those immigrants of the “rivers of blood” era to do…Don’t get me wrong, this attitude is sadly still around today but it feels like the decision by half the population has legitimised it.
And no, the EU is not a brilliant institution, reform is needed, but it has helped to wipe away fear of Europeans. It has meant that the pretty average people like me could study, work and live abroad. It has enriched our workplaces, propped up our National Health Service and provided resource to build homes and look after the young, old and infirm.
It has also made the choice to get married in Italy a natural one – a reflection of my own history, my something “old” – with a guestlist which reflects the fact I am a European.