Independence Day

paradeAs I sat in the hot 4th July sun watching pipers and drums parade down Main Street, Northville, closely followed by a car done up as the Ghostbuster’s Cadillac, I had to keep reminding myself I actually live here, in the USA. And we’re having so much fun!

Later I went to see The BFG with my daughter and watched Sophie asking the Queen to use the British forces to get rid of 9 child-eating giants. And I felt homesick.

I felt homesick for a feeling about what I used to think my country was.

You find out a lot about how you define yourself when you move to live in different country. You suddenly become aware of quirks, habits, ways of thinking that are completely derived from the country you identify with. It’s not nationalism, it’s the function of living inside a culture with a set of ideas and shared experience and history. LIving in Michigan for only 6 months has already revealed to me some thought patterns or quirks that are peculiarly British, for example
– humour in British situations often consists in taking the piss out of yourself, but in a self-deprecating manner. Americans don’t find this remotely funny.
– the British have a culture that seems actively interested in the rest of the world, not quite the same here.
– tea

One of the things I thought I knew about Britain was how good our cultural intderdependencies were. We were an integrated society, one that was working towards better relations through both effort and a general character that we happened to have.

Brexit took that complacency away from me. I feel that this vote came from a place of fear and bigotry, fed by manipulation and lies. Yes 48% of voters did vote to stay in the EU and there are still chances that the referendum will not trigger article 50, but the damage is done. Our country is changed and with it our sense of what it means to be British.

As is my wont I prayed about all this, about this deep sense of anger and sadness I felt at the result and at what it revealed in my sense of self that is tied to my vision of my country and countrymen. I still believe the remain vote is the more Christian path but it didn’t succeed So what to do with all this?

The lesson on the Sunday after the vote involved Jesus’s disciples asking him if they should destroy a town in Samaria which had refused them hospitality. Jesus’s response is to rebuke them. He doesn’t just say no, he actively tells them off.

Vitriol, judgement, even hatred, I’ve seen all of these on Facebook in the last week from those who believe we should have voted remain. There are petitions, legal challenges, letters and opinions and I will want to be involved in those. But it’s not my place to indulge the anger and disappointment I feel.

God’s ways are not our ways, they don’t run to Hollywood endings otherwise Dietrich Bonhoeffer wouldn’t have died in April 1945. I’m not saying that either referendum result would have been God’s will, what I’m saying is that even if I believe this is a result that will prove highly problematic for our nation I have to still trust in God, and know that this doesn’t mean that ‘right will prevail’. It might not all be alright but trust is more important.

It’s natural to think about national identity on a day like today, but while celebrating US Independence Day I wasn’t able to celebrate my nationality in the same way.


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