My lovely grandmother used to say “A toute chose, malheur est bon” which translates to “every cloud has a silver lining’. It really was her iconic phrase, and I have always tried to apply it to what happens in my life – I am a ‘glass half empty’ sort of person and I really try to work on it!
I was explaining to my husband something I had posted about Brexit last night, and ended up by telling him “you see, there is something good about it actually” and as I was saying these words, I thought about my grandmother. She was so right.
The UK voting to get out of the EU was a massive shock to my family and me. Since June, I have felt and still feel so rejected by the country where I have spent the most time as a grown up, where I have gone through so many big milestones of my life. As lovely as my British friends are, I have always felt a bit of unease or not too much interest when I was mentioning how Brexit could impact my family and me. At first it was a very lonely experience and there was only a very few people I knew I could talk about it who would understand.
But once more, my grandmother’s wise words have proven to be relevant. It has taken me some time, but I have found the silver lining to Brexit, and it is a feeling that not only is elating but which is also making me feel so much more positive about the world I am raising my daughter into.
Thanks to Brexit, I have never felt so European; so proud, so grateful, so privileged to be European. It has reminded me this natural penchant we have to take things for granted, especially if we did not have to fight for it, especially when we have never known how it was before it. The EU is the longest and most successful peace treaty; it is a small miracle that brings together people from very diverse cultures, speaking different languages, eating different foods etc. The EU has brought people who would have never met otherwise to meet and create long lasting friendships and also to fall in love and raise families. And I won’t go into the long list of social progress and economic growth that the EU has brought to so many people across the 28 states that are part of it.
Of course there are lots of things which are not perfect and that really could do with improvement, but when you look at the big picture, isn’t it absolutely amazing that the EU exists?! Who would have ever thought, a century ago, that could be possible?
So Brexit has reminded me that I was a French citizen part of the very audacious dream of a handful of wise men who decided peace and prosperity were to be shared if we were to never live through the hell of a world war again.
And thanks to Brexit, I now have felt that closeness, that familiarity that is usually shared with people from your own country, with people from different nationalities– we are united by our European citizenship. I have really felt borders being lifted away. I have joined groups of EU citizens on Facebook and have met there so much friendliness, support, humour and humanity – these groups have brought light hearted relief to days of anxiety (a good sense of humour is something that is shared across Europe indeed!) but also reassured me there were still lots of people out there with empathy. Some days, one struggles to believe it is the case when you read the news!
For Valentine’s day, on one of these groups people started sharing pictures of their families, with #loveknowsnoborders and it was the best things I have seen in a long time. I am not a fan of Valentine’s day – I usually find this more tacky than anything, but these posts were truly going back to what love is. Each post was showing a different story, a different combination of nationalities. Some couples had met decades ago, some just a couple of years back. Some were raising kids, some had pets. Some couple were a mix of more than two nationalities. Some combinations were so surprising. And the big common denominator was they were together thanks to the EU. It was so moving and resonated so much with me. Without the EU, I would have never met my husband and my daughter would not exist. I felt so close, so similar, so like-minded to all these people – they are my people, as much as French people have always been my crew!
Spending a couple of hours yesterday looking at these posts, showing the great mix of nationalities and thinking about all these kids who were truly European, with two or more cultures, made me feel so happy. That is how the world is and some people can try to build walls to divide and discriminate, but if we have so many children with these rich identities, if we carry on nurturing what unites us, then the future won’t be that bad.
One could say it is sad it took something as shocking and poorly thought (not to say planned) like Brexit to make me (and a lot of other people!) be less blase about the EU and my fellow Europeans- but as ever, there is always something good coming out of something bad and my amazing grandmother is once more proven to be right.
Credit photo: Anglodoodle