I’ve never unfriended someone for being pro-Brexit – people had all kinds of reasons for supporting the Leave movement, and I still think some of those were totally valid, even though I hate how Brexit is playing out. I have however, moved away from people on the basis of how abusive they became.
There was one person who particularly haunted me, because he’d stayed at my house, many years ago. He was someone I liked and respected, I’d even learned some of his songs. Some years ago, I watched him become ever more abusive of remain voters on social media, and I had to accept that if someone thinks I’m a moron, we’re not friends any more. He hadn’t said me specifically, but I don’t think he needed to. It was only when I sought out the ‘unfriend’ option that I found we had no friends left in common.
We must have had a lot of friends in common at one point – the folk scene is a friendly place, and he certainly knew a lot of the same people I did. I was the last one to give up on him, I realised. It was a painful moment in all kinds of ways.
I wonder what’s happened to him. I could go and look, but I haven’t. It would be fair to say that Brexit isn’t going well and that many things labelled as ‘project fear’ before we broke away are turning out to be realistic assessments of things that are now happening. There are no signs of the promised sunny uplands. Business are hurting, travel will be harder, students will have less scope to study abroad, and for musicians touring Europe has just become prohibitively complicated and expensive. There’s no visible good at this point, and our government is keen to strip away workers rights and environmental protections.
There will be people who cope through denial. It’s not a strong coping mechanism, and telling yourself everything is great when really it isn’t, takes a toll. There will be people who cope through blame – probably carrying on with the idea that this is all the EU’s fault, or the fault of remainers, or something, anything other than blaming the architects of this plan and the people who helped them. No doubt there will also be people who regret their involvement. I’ve seen a fair few business folk who voted to leave talking about how much it is hurting them.
I wonder what it’s like for people who abused their friends and family members, watching this play out in a way that makes clear those remain-folk were right. I can’t imagine it’s easy. It can be difficult to forgive people for being right, for knowing what you didn’t. It can be difficult to forgive the people we’ve mistreated and abused – because it is easier and more comfortable to keep blaming them and letting ourselves off the hook. But, it must be lonely for some people right now, and painful, and difficult.
I didn’t lose many people over brexit, and I certainly didn’t lose anyone I was so close to that I’d go the distance to try and repair the relationship. I’m sad about the lost folkie, but I’m not intending to make any moves. There are relationships where someone is so important that helping them deal with the fallout of their having been wrong is worth the effort. But, most of the time, I would wait for the person who messed up to decide it mattered enough to make the first move. Healing without apology is hard. Reconciliation without recognition of the problem isn’t very workable and on the whole, I think it’s on the person who messed up and acted badly to start sorting things out by saying sorry, at the very least.