Rebecca Manson Jones - justrmj's blog

the personal is political

Thank EU for having us…

Dear Europe

I was brought up say thank yous at the end of parties for gifts, when the tour ends.

So I wake up today the same person as I was yesterday, a person formed by a long association with you. And nothing is different and everything is changed.

I’m writing to thank you, Europe, for all the opportunities you have given me personally, professionally, socially, culturally, and to assure  EU that the values that our long connections have instilled in me, shall not falter or fade now, when we in the UK and our allies in Europe will need them most.  And we will need those values in the UK to find ways to be with each other – as well as to reach over to mainland Europe.

The values may not be shared across my own nation (I speak of England – one of the four nations, the one that happenstance puts me in) they may not be fashionable, they may be misunderstood, but still and always they will be necessary and they will sustain me.

Thank you, Europe and all Europeans, (on the mainland or here –  & UK nationals who still see themselves like me as European included) for teaching me that things change: I grew up in the 1970s when the subject of European-ness was as contentious as it is now. When people still remembered vividly the damage that two wars had wreaked, when car parks were made from repurposed bomb sites. Our enemy became our friends in politics,  and in fact, as pen pals, mates met on holidays. The Treaty of Rome, Eurovision, The Edinburgh International Festival and its Fringe.

In the 1990s I lived and worked in the former East Germany. And I saw radical change and tension and possibility, was woken up to politics in the personal, in public and in arts. The EU made that possible for me and everything in my life now stems from that year.

Thank you for my first memory of democracy, accompanying my mother to the ballot box in the park. Making her “cross” to be in Europe with a stubby black pencil like the ones we used at school. I liked going to the ballot box. Its ritual transformation from scout hut. I still like going to a ballot box. I shall miss the EU elections, the scale of them, so many many millions – voting together.

Thank for the languages for the freedom to roam and belong…

I studied modern languages German and French. I gained besides two cultures, two histories, two strands of philosophy, the ability to swear in highly inventive and creative ways. My empathy bandwidth is broad, my confidence boosted and so so much more I learned  – from the childhood foreign holidays, to my 20s and 30s when I have lived, worked, thought, dreamed, cried, laughed and was surprised – Not just as a visitor but as a citizen, someone who has dug in, spent time, got to know, listened, told jokes in a “foreign” language. Who has woken up knowing that her previous night’s dream was in that language. In places that were both not my home and my adopted home at the same time.

Thank you for helping me discover my European-ness in the company of French colleagues working in Australia.

I am a European and no-one can take this from me.

Thank you, Europe, for investing in that possibility of connection and translation – so that I could go further into other cultures, Spanish, Italian, Danish and others with a curious spirit, a sense of freedom, security.

A young woman then, travelling alone propped up by the Eurocheques I’d earned, an E111 card and optimism that told me/tells me that there is a friend around every corner not a threat. And if there was a threat, I could find sanctuary … not so for everyone – why do we wish to make the welcome so small?

Thank you, Europe, for all the arts and cultural experiences I’ve been part of that could never have been dreamed into existence without you  – because the people at their heart could never have met without freedom of movement, without your grants and your idealism.

And thank you for all the people who enrich the lives of people in the UK in so many ways, large and invisible. This list is not comprehensive it’s the list of a stream of consciousness writer: here goes

Health workers

Care workers

Public servants in local authorities and all forms of governance

Builders and tradespeople

Taxi drivers

Agricultural workers

Retail, tourism, leisure workers

Academics, researchers, Teachers,

legal and clerical workers

Scientists and artists and footballers (other sports are available).

 

I grieve not only the breaks in my connection but also yours to us.

Thank you for the international families I know created by the possibility of the EU.

Thank you for all the ways in which you have invested in our UK communities, in our natural beauty, in our arts venues, in our sporting facilities, in our environmental protections and our workers rights, in our social and civic rights.

To be fair, EU still have plenty of work to do to address gender equality and in picking up on the intersections of multiple inequalities,  and plenty MORE  to do now to defend the position you have got to.   I’m so sad that we’re not going to be there – at least not formally – to take our share of the burden and the responsibility. Please don’t stop improving, improve faster, improve better – don’t let us slow you down. Don’t get side-tracked by the demands of extremists.

Thank you, Europe, for my sense of self. This is not a garland of stars I take off and hand back lightly. You are in my marrow. Like many people I can believe in more than one thing at a time. I will continue believing in and supporting the EU whilst thinking in inches and ounces as I always have.

My optimism does not die. I want to keep the EU stars shining so that when in a few years time we ask to come and sit down with you again, there’ll be a place at the table, it won’t be a stretch.

It’s like the French say, never twice but three times. In my lifetime there have been two referendums about UK membership of the EU. I think and hope there come time for the third.

#AlwaysEuropean #ThankEU

 

 

Dr Sue Black

Technology Evangelist, Digital Skills Expert and Entrepreneur

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