Living together after the referendum: facing up rather than facing off

Written by Jo Carroll.

It's been a brutal few weeks across the country, exposing deep divisions and feelings of alienation from social and political processes.

Even here, in our gentle market town, strong feelings have set neighbour against neighbour, friend against friend.  Letters to this site as well as the national press highlight to depth of feelings and misunderstandings on both sides - feelings that, on occasions, have spilled into abuse, even violence.

We have all been rocked by the killing of Jo Cox.  But even Marlborough has not been immune to hatred.  Before the vote a friend was verbally abused by a stranger when crossing The Green wearing a 'Remain' sticker.

And now it's done.  The Leavers are dancing in the street and the Remainers are struggling to make any sense of the enormity of the changes to come.  We are still, ideologically, miles apart.

With the course of action prescribed by the result of the referendum, there is no room for discussion or compromise.  There is no choice but to accept what is.

Yet we must continue to live side by side. We bump into each other in Waitrose or Tesco or walk dogs together across the Common.  Feelings are still bruised.  Divisions are sustained even though the vote is over.

We cannot live like this for long.

If we cannot treat each other kindly and with empathy the hostility that has characterised this campaign risks becoming entrenched.  Just as the Remainers need to get to grips with the extent to which millions of people feel disconnected from European politics, so the Leavers should consider the deep fears of almost as many at the potential disintegration of the European Union.

If we can begin to listen to each other - even though we may continue to disagree - only then can we treat each other with dignity and face the uncertainties of the next few years together.


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