I‚Äôm a US citizen. I come from a nation formed by immigrants, though many people seem to forget that. I come from a nation that, despite it‚Äôs many sins, generally honors diversity in color, language, religion, and culture. There is a plaque inside the Statue of Liberty inscribed with Emma Lazarus’ sonnet, ‚ÄúNew Colossus:‚Äù
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!‚Äù
After the first people came over the Bering Strait, the Vikings paid a visit. Then the Europeans: the Spanish settled in Florida and the Southwest, the French along the Mississippi and on the Gulf Coast, the British in Virginia and New England, the Swedish in Delaware, the Dutch in New York and New Jersey. Slave from Africa and the Caribbean. Chinese railroad workers. Irish famine refugees. Mexican Revolution refugees. Jewish refugees from the pogroms. World War Two refugees. Armenian refugees. Hungarian and other Cold War refugees. Cuban refugees. Refugees from all over Southeast Asia. Syrian refugees. And always, people seeking the American Dream. We are a nation of dreamers, of hope-seekers. And though we often try to close the door, we cannot, for America is, and always will be, a nation of immigrants.
I am also a British citizen. Through education, and then marriage, I find myself living in a small village in Yorkshire. I am an immigrant. I did not have to become a citizen, but I chose to do so. Living in a country and being bound by its laws, but not able to have a say in who make those laws disturbed me, so in 2013, I made a solemn affirmation of allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II, her heirs and successors, followed by a pledge to the United Kingdom itself:
I will give my loyalty to the United Kingdom and respect its rights and freedoms. I will uphold its democratic values. I will observe its laws faithfully and fulfil my duties and obligations as a British citizen.
I am an immigrant.
As of June 23rd, 2016, I believe that a small majority of Britons failed that pledge when they voted to remove the UK from the European Union. Like natural-born US citizens, those born in the UK do not need to swear an oath of loyalty or make an affirmation of allegiance (should you not wish to invoke God). And whilst I have some disagreement with this‚ÄìI largely agree with Heinlein that some form of service (not necessarily military) should be necessary to grant citizenship and the right to vote‚ÄìI believe that citizenship comes with responsibilities as well as rights, regardless of how that citizenship came about. And one of those responsibilities is to look beyond oneself to the greater good of¬†the nation, as well as the greater good for all of humankind.
I can look at this vote from a personal level. My husband will most likely lose his job (his employer was sold to a European based corporation a few years ago), which means we will lose the greater part of our income, and we‚Äôll no longer be able to pay all of our bills. Finding a new job will be very difficult, as 500 others at his company will be in the same boat. The metropolitan area‚Äìsuch as it is‚Äìhas about 120,000 people, and at least one other major employer (over 1,000 employees) based on the continent.
That‚Äôs just in one small area in Yorkshire. That doesn‚Äôt take into account the bigger metropolitan areas around the UK. Hundreds of thousands of jobs are at risk across the UK, either through direct foreign ownership like my husband‚Äôs employer, or through trade that will potentially be crushed by tariffs. Economically, the UK faces potentially serious problems; for one, it is questionable if we are even able to feed ourselves without trade. For another, the UK imports more goods than it exports. As such, we will continue to be a major trading partner with the EU, but there is no guarantee that we will receive as favorable a deal as is currently in place: simply put, we need the EU more than the EU needs the UK.
Economic considerations aside, the political fallout on the world stage is also real. We will have no say in EU decisions now, and that alone makes our voice on the world stage smaller. Yes, we‚Äôre still a part of the G8¬†and G20, and we‚Äôre one of only five nations to have a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. But the UK had extremely favorable conditions in the EU, and negotiated still better ones in an effort to convince its citizens that staying in the EU was the right choice. And yet, we stomped out, like a child who throws a tantrum because he didn‚Äôt get his own way. Just as it‚Äôs hard to take a child seriously when he‚Äôs having a tantrum, why would the EU be inclined to do us any favors when we walked away from the table and slammed the door behind us?
The thorniest issue of all, however, is immigration. Does leaving imply that the UK is racist? Does it imply that the UK is uncaring to the plight of refugees? To people seeking a better life? I don‚Äôt know. Regardless, the world is not better when we‚Äôre smaller. When we focus only on ourselves, when we ignore the plights of others, we run the risk of others doing the same to us in the future.
Do we really want to teach our children that it‚Äôs ok to ignore the suffering of others? That someone who looks different, or sounds different, is a threat? Because that‚Äôs the message we‚Äôre sending. Economic concepts are largely meaningless to a child, as are political ones. But people are something children understand. They see that children in Syria are suffering now, and they‚Äôre willing to share with them. But now, we‚Äôre teaching a new message to our children: no one is more important that ourselves, and we should keep others out.
For more information on the history of the European Union, visit Europa.eu‚Äôs History page.
To read about the why¬†Winston Churchill believed in a united Europe, click here.
For an analysis of the economic ramifications of leaving the EU, read the London School of Economics’ paper here.
And lastly, the BBC has provided live, in-depth coverage of the 2016 referendum, including analysis and related news stories.
Social Media Manager
Girl Museum Inc.