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Refugees

What has happened to this country? What is going on? We really do seem to be becoming a nation full of some very nasty people and I don’t like it. All I am seeing at the moment is story after story, report after report, news item after news item, on social and in mainstream media, of racist and xenophobic attacks and mind-boggling hatred towards our fellow man and woman. It’s horrible. Even though it’s now been a week since the Referendum, since we voted to leave the European Union, it’s going on and on and on. The hatred and racism is not abating in any way that I can see, if anything, it’s getting worse. According to newspapers and the news bulletins I’ve seen, read and heard just today, racist hate-crime has increased fivefold in the last week. A truly terrifying statistic and not a Britain I want any part of. People are being abused just because of where they were born, because of the colour of their skin and it has to stop.

What is going on?

People are being abused, insulted and attacked for no other reason than the fact they were not born in this country. Got a ‘funny’ name? Go somewhere else. Got an accent? Get out. Born somewhere else? The exit’s that way. Got a different skin colour? No room, we’re full.

Why?

Anyone with any knowledge or understanding of our country’s history knows that Britain is, and always has been, a medley of people and traditions from other countries, other nations, other cultures. A wonderful, amazing, fascinating meld of people from all over the world. People from many races living and working together, over the years, to make our country what it is. People absorbing other cultures and traditions, whilst adding a ‘British’ spin to everything. People teaching each other about life elsewhere and learning from one another for centuries. That’s what has made us the people and the country we are today.

But things are changing and, in my opinion, they are not changing for the better. As a nation we are becoming more and more insular and intolerant of others and it has to stop. All this bitterness and hatred is wrong and cannot go on. Not without harming the health of our country it can’t, anyway. Disrespecting, attacking and abusing others has to end before it’s too late. I  believe that my parents got it right and I believe that we should all try to think the same way. It makes sense to me anyway. They were both children in during the Second World War and the things they saw and heard then taught them something invaluable. Thinking first and then treating other people the way we would like to be treated ourselves needs to become our watchword, the way we all live our lives. Continuing to hate is wrong and can’t go on.

When I was a child, back in the 1960s and 70s, my wonderful parents brought me up with one main tenet for my life which they encouraged me to follow. It’s a maxim that has served me well for more than half a century now and it’s something I have tried to instill into my own children’s upbringing. It’s something, I believe, we would all do well to remember and try to adhere to, especially now. If I have learnt nothing else, if there’s nothing else I could teach my grandchildren, when I am blessed with some, if I take nothing else forward into the rest of my life, from the many things my parents taught me, practically from the day I was born then it’s this,

treat other people they way you would like to be treated yourself.

If you don’t believe you would like it done to you, by someone else, then don’t do it to other people.

Stop, think, reconsider then walk away. That is what we need to remember every day in everything we do and that is what we seem to have forgotten at the moment.

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Social media certainly lets you see and ‘meet’ all sorts of different people. Well, that is what it’s for after all. Thing is, I’m not exactly sure I’d like to meet all these people in person. Some days I wonder why I bother even looking at the posts. Sure, some of them sound like they would be people I’d like to get to know better but some of them don’t come over as being very nice at all.

Yesterday I read posts from people at at both ends of the spectrum. One of these guys was completely amazing and made me cry with happiness and the other was amazing in a totally different way and made me ashamed to be the same species.

The first guy, Pete, had posted a story about something that had happened to him the evening before. He had been taking his dog out for it’s usually walk in the park when he had come across a young homeless man trying to sleep on a park bench, and, instead of just walking on past as many would have done, Pete sat down and started to talk to this him. It turned out that the man was an Eastern European guy from Poland who had been promised a job, as a casual labourer, which had never happened. The job offer had been withdrawn and the Polish guy had lost his home and been thrown out on the street as a result. He had no money and was desperate. And this is where I started to cry. Pete wrote that it was cold and it was raining and he decided to extend the hand of compassion and friendship. He offered the young man somewhere to stay and a hot meal. He invited the homeless young man to come home with him for the night and then, the following morning, took him to the station and bought him a ticket to the town where his brother lived. Tear jerking stuff which left me with a warm fuzzy feeling – some people are so wonderful.

Then there was the second guy. Let’s call him Alan. Someone else had posted a picture of the refugee camp in Calais with the message that the first Syrian refugees who were to be settled in this country were due to arrive and would be going to Nottingham. Amongst the other comments on this thread, some welcoming the new arrivals and some saying ‘not in my town’, Alan’s stood out. He posted that he hoped that this winter would be cold and wet and snowy so the refugees still in the camps would freeze. He suggested that if it was too cold for them then they could always have snowball fights to keep warm. When he was challenged about his unfeeling attitude, and asked if he was advocating for something that would mean misery for many and the probable deaths of young and old alike, Alan said he thought this would be a good thing because it would mean fewer economic scroungers on our doorsteps. This made me cry too but with no warm fuzziness, just anger and despair that there are people like Alan in the world. People with seemingly no compassion whatsoever.

Both these stories prompted a small flurry of posts. More tales of compassionate acts like Pete’s but, sadly, a few messages of support for Alan, agreeing with his attitude. Thankfully Pete’s post had many more responses than Alan’s but the fact that Alan’s horrible attitude had any supporters at all was so upsetting.

When did we lose our humanity? What has caused this? I am not sure but, as far as I am concerned, this Government’s austerity program, which has  condemned so many to poverty and visits to food banks, and all the reality programmes on TV about benefits cheats and so-called scroungers, have a lot to answer for. We seem to have all become a nation of people who don’t care as long as we’re all right and this is so sad.

A new year is just round the corner, why don’t we all do our best to make things change. Why can’t we try making 2016 a year to remember but a year to remember for the right reasons. Why don’t we all do our best to make things better. We don’t have to spend money to do this, all we have to do is listen, challenge and care. We need to stop thinking about just ourselves and start thinking about other people too. The way things are going at the moment we are all just one step away from trying to sleep on that park bench in the rain. We need many more Petes and far fewer Alans and I know who I want to be. Who is with me?