If you told me that the residents of a nation would give into fear-mongering, populism and xenophobia, I would have never guessed it was any country besides the United States.
Turns I had been giving the British too much credit my entire life.
Call it reverse stereotyping, but I always assumed that just because some one is British, that they are smarter. They dress fancier, they sound more eloquent, and their use of the English language is impeccable.
All of that changed last week when British voters stunned the world by voting to leave the European Union.
The post-war bloc of 28 nations represents the world’s largest single market. Goods and labor flow freely through the member states’ open borders. When a country faltered economically, the E.U. would step in and do everything in its power to pick it up (see: Greece).
But — and tell me if this sounds familiar — the European Union’s open borders also allows the free flow of people to immigrate from one country to another. That fact, coupled with the fear of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa, has stirred a huge sense of nationalism that some politicians have exploited and baited in recent months.
The unprecedented vote has divided residents and created economic uncertainty for the U.K. The stock markets plunged. The value of the pound plummeted. Northern Ireland and Scotland might secede. And young people, who voted overwhelmingly to remain in the E.U., are angry at their elders for sacrificing their future.
Oh, and their prime minister is resigning.
And amazingly, after the vote, campaigners on the Leave side are suddenly backtracking on some of the “facts” they claimed would be beneficial if Britain left the E.U.
But the most astounding part in all of this was when news came out that the top Google searches after the vote from British residents were: “What does it mean to leave the EU?” and “What is the EU?”
Here’s where America can learn. Witness the turmoil that is occurring in Britain right now. Feel the regret.
What’s happening in Britain right now is what happens when you give into fear. When you make short-sighted, impulsive decisions simply because you have the option to. When you take out your anger and frustration in the form of a protest vote without understanding the consequences.
If we elect the man who is currently the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, the reality will sink in the next day. The ramifications of what it means will suddenly set in. And mark my words, we will wish we can go back and change it.
Fortunately, the vote hasn’t happened yet. We still can alter the future.
We have one chance to get this right. There’s no practice vote. Because once we place those ballots, there is no do-over.
So America, I’m going to put this as delicately as possible. Look at the anguish the British are experiencing right now. They wish they were in our shoes, and still had the opportunity to make the smart decision in an important referendum.
America, we have four months left.
Get your shit together.