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No longer a citizen

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Edited by Geoff Cooper, Saturday, 1 Feb 2020, 17:04

Well! That’s it. Done and dusted. Boris Johnson, the right wing of British politics, the cheats, rumour mongers and liars have their way. Resident in the E.U. I am no longer a citizen of that organisation. 

I wish it were otherwise. I had thought that jingoism died during the First World War with Wilfred Owen. As a child of the years of the Second World War, I hated and feared anything German. My childish nightmares were about Adolf Hitler.

Two salutary lessons were learned post-war. First, my parents invited Walther Rehm to our home during Christmas 1945. Father had recently been released from his service in the Royal Air Force, ironically enough Bomber Command. Walther was a ‘no threat’ prisoner of war, of low rank. As such, privileges were granted: he was able to visit our church, occasionally he could spend a night away from his prison camp. He was a joy. Hitler would have loved him. Tall. Blond. Blue eyed. But a gentle man. Kind. Thoughtful. Anxious to look and learn. He and father got on well together. Mother, a teacher, gave him English lessons.

And he taught, too. He taught me my first few stammering words of German. Without formal skills in German, I can still count up to ten. In his Bavarian accent. We sang together, ‘Silent Night’, in its original language. When he returned to Germany, I was no longer having nightmares about Hitler and Germans.

Some years later, I was part of an exchange trip to German from school. Father had warned me of the devastating damage he had seen flying over Cologne. I knew we were going to a broken and run down country. I was prepared to be humble and condescendingly kind to the nation Britain had defeated. 

How wrong I was. How my eyes were opened. How humiliated I became.

Cologne was still in ruins. Little rebuilding had taken place. The Dom tower still stood aloof from the rubble.

But my broken hosts had.a car. A shining, gleaming, brand new Mercedes Benz. We had no car. My hosts had a wonderful house with private bathrooms. The pit village house I had lived in had an outside toilet. They had servants. My family, butchers by trade, had employed domestic servants until the 1920s. Never in my time. Then, the business - its three shops, its abattoir, its one or two fields raising its own livestock for slaughter - was lost to the industrial strife of that period of British history. Collateral damage. 

My nascent social and political outlook began to formulate the belief that it was better for humankind if we became joiners together rather than separators and dividers. I felt this confirmed what I was being taught in church, through the faith I was acquiring. And the gutter press, the biased and privileged owned spreader of falsehoods, today plasters front pages with Union Jacks and exultant banner headlines ranting ‘freedom’. This does not feel like freedom.

I now feel separated and divided. And wronged. 

Much is being said about ‘heal the nation’. Yet, the rowdy yobs on television last night seem intent only on glorifying their ‘victory’. In so many cases the TV interviews appeared to be an excuse for further self indulgence. Rubbing the noses of those who want to be E.U. citizens in the dirt of the lies and prejudice that has been spread.

I regret yesterday more than anything else that I have regretted in my 82 years as a British citizen. It seems we have learned nothing from history.

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