Why this period of enforced 'national mourning' has left me feeling alienated from my own country
Forcefully shutting down political debate is in itself a deeply political act.
A lot has been said in recent days about how the national period of mourning has “united” the country. Those making this case have focused on the apparent diversity of those queuing to see the Queen lying-in-state, as well as the self-imposed truce between the major political parties.
For many people this sense of unity will be genuine. It is certainly the case that overall support for the monarchy, and the new king, appears to have solidified during this period. Many people will have felt understandable comradeship in joining the thousands of people queuing to pay their respects to the Queen.
However, for many other people it has not felt that way. Those exercising their right to protest against the monarchy have instead seen themselves variously arrested, assaulted, or ostracised.
Some ethnic minority Brits have also reported a surge in online abuse, while Meghan Markle has become an even greater focus for hatred and venom in parts of the press and on social media.
Even I, as a white man, born and raised in the UK, have noticed a significant increase in anonymous abuse, focusing (as ever) on my foreign-sounding surname. I have found myself largely staying off of social media as a result.
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The reality is, that for all the talk of unity, many people have found this period of national mourning to be incredibly stifling and divisive. As a republican who believes that the Royal Family is a significant barrier to ever building a society with equal opportunities for all, the sheer intolerance shown towards this view has felt not unifying, but alienating. For the first time in my life I have started to feel myself becoming disconnected from the country I was born in.
In his post he writes that such pauses allow us to reflect on issues that otherwise can pass us by.
In some respects I agree with him. In the upcoming print edition of Byline Times I have written about how this period has forced me to look at these issues in a different light. Although I have long supported the idea of having an elected head of state, it has never felt like a huge priority for me. That has now changed.
However, while this period may have prompted some people to think about these issues more deeply, I still believe that the overall impact has been to merely stifle and suppress thought and dissent.
In a nation which supposedly values free thought and expression, I have found the enforced unanimity, in both the media and on the streets, to be incredibly oppressive and I am looking forward to it coming to an end.
As I write in the upcoming edition of Byline Times, shutting down parliament and political debate for weeks on end is not a “suspension” of politics, but is in fact a political act in itself. It is a choice which dictates which views are acceptable in our society and which are not.
Opposition to the monarchy in the UK may be a minority position, but it is a significant minority.
For some of us within that minority, this period of enforced unanimity has not felt like the country coming together. It has instead felt like we are being pushed, unwillingly, away.
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