A man condemned to death told his king: “I could teach your horse to sing within a year.” The king replied: “Very well. But if the horse is not singing a year from now you will be executed.” On returning to the prison, his cellmate protested: “You know you can’t teach that horse to sing.” The man replied: “Yes, but I have a year I did not have before. A lot of things can happen in a year. The king might die. The horse might die. I might die. And who knows? Maybe the horse will sing!”
Martin Wolf (July 2, 2016, Financial Times) told this story to give hope to those who voted Remain in the Brexit vote. He has been a long-time opponent of the Leave campaign, and he is hopeful that some compromise will be worked out. It might well be a year before Parliament triggers Article 50 to initiate withdrawal from the European Union. Maybe in the meantime voices of reason will prevail or the horse will sing.
Perhaps I was lulled into a sense of false security by the bookmakers who were giving favorable odds to the “Remain” side of the Brexit referendum. It was hard believe that the majority of Brits would vote to leave the European Union after 43 years. The task of untangling that relationship and the enormous costs involved and the predictions of economic doom seemed excellent reasons not to leave. But voters chose otherwise. It has convinced me of the folly of government by referendum. The simple choice “yea” or nay” is rarely an adequate response to a complex situation.
While I am grateful to be an American I still love the country that nurtured and raised me, and I’m greatly concerned about the UK’s future. I believe the Leave Europe Campaign is taking the UK down the wrong road. It seems like economic suicide to vastly reduce the market for one’s goods and services (50% of UK exports go to Europe). London stands to lose a lot since it has been the main financial center for Europe. It is unwise to allow fears and prejudices about immigrants to drives one’s nation into isolation. London has by far the most immigrants in the UK and its citizens voted 2-1 to remain.
Sam Wells, Vicar of St. Martin in the Fields, London, wrote a column in the Christian Century (http://www.christiancentury.org/article/2016-04/europe-s-pentecost), which proposed Pentecost as a model for Europe, wherein diversity is respected and the good of all is sought. The alternative is to withdraw into Babel where division and conflict are the norm. Does anyone want to return to the Europe of the past, with its endlessly destructive conflicts?
One of my previous blogs is relevant also (Tribe or Beloved Community), in which I referred to Donald Trump’s invective against immigrants as a form of tribalism. He has been quick to seize upon the Brexit vote as an endorsement of his position. Christians should champion a very different social vision – not my tribe, but rather the Beloved Community, in Dr. Martin Luther King’s phrase for the kingdom of God. The vote to leave Europe was fueled by English nationalism, a longing for the way things used to be, which appealed to older voters. But what will be the social vision that guides the UK into the future, appealing to the younger voters who want to remain in Europe?