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Easter Outrage, Sabre-Rattling, And Antisemitism? Britain, Stop Acting Like America

05/04/2017 12:39

An old white man saying something bigoted. The sound of outraged reactionaries complaining about an assault on Christian holidays. A nation on the verge of declaring war because of a minor diplomatic scuffle. There is nothing like America at Christmastime.

Except, this isn't America, and it's Easter. Over the past several days I've watched as the land I hope to one day call home act as though it's the land I can't wait to leave. Ken Livingstone - who really needs to just stop talking - has again been suspended from the Labour party for anti-Semitic rhetoric. Nigel Farage and Theresa May and even the Church of England are all outraged that Cadbury's is having what I guess is a Spring Egg Hunt instead of an Easter Egg Hunt. And in what has probably been blown entirely out of proportion, right-wing nationalists are ready to bomb Madrid to protect Gibraltar from poorly worded diplomatic cables.

Britain, I say this with love as only a close friend can: you're bonkers. Ever since Article 50 was triggered last week, I've sat and watched in gaping horror as the lot of you have acted as though you're American, getting bent out of shape over silly culture wars, defending an old bigot and blustering across the world stage as though you're a hound ready to chase after some European foxes. It's a side of you the rest of us rarely see, and as your mate, I have to tell you that it's not a good look, babes.

Many of you are wont to distance yourselves from the more unseemly behaviour we've seen lately, and that's fine. Clearly not all, or even most, Brits are ready to lay siege to Barcelona or stage a crusade to Cadbury World. But enough of you have been whipping up the nationalistic and Christian fervour to warrant a word.

Let's start with the most obvious. Ken Livingstone should have been expelled from Labour. Anti-Semitism may sadly have a place in the White House, but it has no place in the Labour Party. Suggesting a connection between Hitler - who killed six million Jews - and Zionism - belief in a Jewish homeland in the Levant - is about as anti-Semitic as you can get without going full on blood libel. Hitler didn't want the Jews in Europe - as is evidenced, again, by the fact that he killed six million of them.

Ken Livingstone has had ample time to correct this over the past year or so, and he keeps doubling down. I'm not saying this as a Blairite (I endorsed Corbyn for leader in 2015, after all), but as someone who, well, isn't anti-Semitic and doesn't like people who are. You don't sound radical or leftwing when you defend Livingstone's comments. You sound like you work for Donald Trump.

Okay, now the sodding Easter eggs. Folks - they're chocolate candies. I'm a good Anglican lad myself (okay, Episcopalian, but close enough) and my Christianity is no more tied up in what you call an egg hunt than it is in whether there's a snowflake on a Starbucks cup. Show me in the Bible where the disciples hunted eggs following Jesus' resurrection and maybe I'll be upset, but until then this whole egg thing is just a pagan trapping - a fun pagan trapping, but a pagan trapping nonetheless - that I just can't be fussed about.

No, what Eggate is really all about is Nigel Farage et al trying to force Christianity on the heathen masses. Sure, Easter is a religious holiday, just as Christmas is. But both of them have been thoroughly secularised over the course of 100 years or so to the point to where they're basically like Last Night of the Proms - a good excuse to dress up in nice clothes, get a bit drunk, hear some good music and row with your dad over whether Danny Dyer or Richard Ayoade would make a better Doctor Who. I mean, if you want to fight to keep Britain a Christian nation, you're going to need a TARDIS to take you back to the 1950s anyway.

Of course you could overshoot and end up in the 1650s, in the midst of the second Anglo-Spanish War, in which the two nations attacked one another's colonies and commercial interests - kind of like what's happening this week. When the EU said that there could be no Brexit agreement regarding Gibraltar unless Spain agreed, Brexiteers began sabre-rattling. Former Conservative leader Michael Howard even suggested it could lead to war a la the Argentinian invasion of the Falklands, and today, Britain scurried a Spanish warship out of Gibraltarian waters.

Gibraltar is British, because Gibraltarians wish to be British. That should be the end of the conversation, meaning Spain and the EU are clearly in the wrong here. But at a time when the country is entering into the most important negotiation since the end of the Second World War, it isn't advisable to rise to every occasion Europe gives you for outrage - especially when it comes to mentioning war with a Nato ally. At a time when my country seems hellbent on undermining that most important of alliances, we can hardly afford for your country to set off on a war footing before David Davis has even had a chance to get to Brussels.

It's been a long week. Triggering Article 50 has clearly taken a toll. But as we set about deciding what Britain's future is going to look like, we can't keep looking backwards. That means no more acting like an imperial power ready to invade at the slightest offence, no more Mary Whitehousing about Easter eggs, and certainly no more excusing anti-Semitism.

The world needs British leadership and moral clarity now more than ever. You, the mother of modern democracy, are supposed to be the adult in the room. Start acting like it.

Glad we had this talk. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to go make sure my president hasn't declared war on North Korea or sold our nuclear codes to Russia.

Cheers.

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