Both in the USA and the UK, citizens are being asked to set aside their horror and outrage at domestic events – the Trump putsch there, the Covid-19 death toll and post-Brexit chaos here – and ‘come together’ for the sake of the country.
How dare the perpetrators ask this of us?
I was prompted to write this article after watching Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s interview response to Republican calls to back off a second impeachment of Donald Trump in the interests of unity. They had the nerve to claim that, effectively, ‘letting it go’ would be “in the spirit of healing and fidelity to our constitution”. If I had been asked what I thought about that, I would have exploded. But the Congresswoman is a consummate professional. Her response is spot on:
“If we allow insurrection with impunity, without accountability, we are inviting it to happen again.”
Now, you might say that we are not facing the same issues as America and it is true that we have not (thankfully) seen domestic terrorists swarming over Westminster, wreaking havoc and taking lives. But please read Tom Scott’s piece on Britain Trump, my piece on Hope and Horror and Sadie Parker’s latest: Dark Wednesday. We are facing no less of an assault on our democracy for all it is being carried out by be-suited Etonians and their cronies.
We’ve made references in the past to prorogation, rushing through life-changing, nation-changing legislation with barely any scrutiny, rule by the executive etc. We’ve written about the culture of gaslighting and the almost wholesale, full-time lying. Right now, it is becoming more and more apparent that Brexit is, was and always will be an undeliverable ‘vision’ sold entirely on lies and dog whistles to nationalism and English exceptionalism. Brexit’s consequences diminish the UK in every aspect bar crime and corruption. In these fields, we can hold onto our world-beating reputation for money-laundering and tax evasion/avoidance. And yet…
And yet, those who clearly saw what Brexit would mean, those who called out the lies, challenged the wild promises and tried to warn of the inevitable consequences…those people are being asked to put their righteous anger aside, to park their clear-sightedness, to ignore the torrent of toxic propaganda and to write off the mountain of lies upon lies upon lies and ‘move on’.
No. There can be no moving on without accountability. The very people who lied to us still rule us. They do not get our trust, our respect or our absolution by demanding it, packaging up that demand in the language of patriotism. No. No. No.
Terrible wrongs have been wrought on our nation, wrongs that amount to an attack on our country, on the truth and the rule of law…and on our very democracy.
We are being point blank lied to on a daily basis and, unlike the journalists at CNN, for example, we are too coy, too cowed, too toady, too flipping polite to call the lies lies and the liars liars. Enough.
Michael Gove, for example, would have you believe that you have somehow forgotten that he and his government told all of us that there would be disruption in the wake of Brexit. He did not. They did not. You are not going mad.
And how about the 90 day visa-free travel for musicians? Refused us by Brussels, say a government who are in fact so ideologically-wedded to ending freedom of movement for all that they rejected the EU’s offer to extend that courtesy to British performers because it would have required them to reciprocate. But they lied about it to you.
These are just two examples out of many hundreds. Lies that go unpunished are a cancer in society. Systematically undermining people’s trust and sense of right and wrong, of true and false is corrosive, destructive. If they can emotionally blackmail us into believing it’s our patriotic duty to ignore the fact that our country has been weakened, diminished and undermined, and if they can manipulate us into accepting that as the new normal, we are done, and done as surely as if our parliament had been overrun and a dictatorship established.
So, I’m with Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez.
Do the crime? Serve the time. Then, maybe, just maybe, we can start to heal.