Where were you when Britain voted to drop out of the European Union?
It isn’t like 9/11. Not exactly a searing shock. Rather one of those queasy moments when you feel the bedrock wobble.
Do you remember? Here’s a hint: June 2016. I was in Washington, D.C., visiting my older son. Getting the news amidst the Roman splendor of our nation’s capital helped seal it in memory.
As did the news itself: Britain was bailing out of the European Union, tired of living in an interconnected modern world where standards might be set somewhere else. Rejecting the EU’s open borders, which meant some foreign person could come to your country, where they don’t belong.
Not that I cared much about British politics. Rather, I saw the vote as tea leaves indicating where our own country was heading come that November.
Or as I wrote on my blog three days later:
“The news filled with the spectacle of a nation submitting to xenophobia and fear, leaping off a cliff at the behest of mavericks who had no plan other than to trash the system and see what happens next. It’s like burning down your home to marvel at the pretty fire. And I couldn’t help but feel: we’re next... It was scary to walk through these wide federal plazas, with their gleaming beige stone buildings. To think, ‘This is the Department of Commerce that Donald Trump will be responsible for. This is the White House where he will live.’
“With the bad news from Britain, as the country, in an act of collective derangement it instantly regretted, voted to be a smaller, more cut off and less prosperous nation, it was easy to suspect we had now entered a world gone mad, that the populist rage that has for so long simmered under our politics had truly exploded. . . Brexit is strike two... Will Trump be strike three?”He was. Though Trump has not been as bad as feared. When I asked my boy interning in Washington why he wasn’t that alarmed about Trump, he replied, “The institutions are strong.” And they have been, generally. While individual Republican leaders line up to stain themselves with the deathless shame of cowardice, treason and betrayal of every moral value they once flaunted, there has been institutional resistance. By the courts. By the federal bureaucracy. By Congress — the impeachment process distracts Trump from doing greater damage. The media has never been so important.
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