An American’s take on the Brexit aftermath

Or, ‘The Trump Trap’

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My opinion can hardly be called expert.

I lack a sound grasp of European politics or economics, so I’ll forgo any commentary on the consequences of the Brexit. The British hardly need an American to remind them of their country’s great history, or encourage them to keep a stiff upper lip. I’m not going to insult anyone by trying to do either.

However, before I ship off back to the U.S. (a Brexit that many Cambridge students can probably get behind) I want to offer my two cents (or the equivalent £5).

Over the course of this year, I have been tremendously impressed by the students at Cambridge. Your intellect, willingness to engage in debate, openness to new ideas and May Balls are fucking impressive, if not unparalleled. Immersed in the Cambridge milieu, it is hard to imagine how something like the Brexit could have come to pass.

The aftermath, though, is familiar. As I witnessed the rise of Trump from abroad, I experienced similar feelings of incredulity, anger, disappointment, shock and fear.  British students have asked me what type of person could support Trump. I respond by describing a pack of ignorant little gremlins who make me scared to return to my home country.

I recently played an American Oxford student in a varsity tennis match. This particular American was an atrocious sport: the Oxford team repeatedly apologized to our squad for his bad behavior.  After winning a tense three-hour match, I led the Cambridge team in a chant that branded him a “Trump Supporter” (some members of the Oxford team even joined in). In truth, I felt pretty bad about this—and not because the said Oxford student was actually a staunch Hillary supporter.

I felt bad because I realized that I have completely distanced myself from anyone who would vote for Donald Trump. They come from a different planet.  The fact that many of Americans support a presidential candidate who recently congratulated the Scottish on their choice to “vote leave,” should make me feel guilty, not scornful.  These voters may be misguided, racist and provincial; but they are still my countrymen. What am I doing to help change these attitudes? What can I do to help change the harsh conditions that bring about this way of thinking?

I worry that some of my British peers are also ensnared in their own version of a divisive “Trump Trap.” From the ivory towers of Cambridge, it is easy to abandon the other 52%. Now more than ever, the UK needs its sharpest minds to engage in civil political discourse, participate in educational outreach programs, ensure a tenable economic future for those hit hardest by the Brexit (likely those” leave” voters).

I recently heard a British medic remark: “as if I needed another incentive to practice in the US.” Cambridge students have the power to do anything or live anywhere–members of May Ball committees can at least become party planners for billionaire oil barons in Dubai. Though drinking with Brits is among my favourite things in this life and the next, please don’t come to work in the US (or enter into a sham marriage with a Continental).  Ask instead, how you can make the UK a more tolerant, informed and prosperous place to live.

I think that recent events have motivated many Cambridge students think this way, and determine to steady the course of their nation. Britain is not a “sinking ship.” It is a ship that has taken on some water and needs its crew to get those buckets going, mates.

Churchill once said: “The British nation is unique…they are the only people who like to be told how bad things are, who like to be told the worst.” He believed that the British people could accept the direst of consequences and work towards a better future. I have no clue whether or not this is true.  What I can say for certain is that young people in the US will be closely watching how their British counterparts respond in the aftermath of the Brexit.

It gives me a great deal of hope that there are very talented people, like those I have met at Cambridge, who can lead the charge towards a “Brebound.”

OK, “Brebound” is not my best work, but as with my dissertation it’s getting late and I’m just going to let it ride.

Goodbye, Cambridge.