I won't lie: the Brexit vote surprised me.
I'm sure I'm not the only one, and, as with most governmental happenings across the pond, the referendum held Thursday across Britain and its territories, my fascination with it only grows as I actually figure out what in the world it means.
I was able to gather from a few friends and a quick Google search that they were voting to leave the European Union. Fortunately, I do know what that is, but its purpose remains lost on me other than as a defining characteristic of the European economic (and probably cultural) landscape. With very few exceptions, the continent of Europe seems pretty chill about being in the EU.
I studied abroad in Switzerland during the summer after my college graduation in 2014, and I'm fairly certain I knew that the Swiss were one country that isn't a part of the EU, nor a lot of the other markers of the larger European conscience. They didn't fight in WWII, they largely just don't get involved in other country's (non-economic) business, etc. So I knew that despite the EU's hype, some European countries still want (almost) nothing to do with it.
Why? I had no idea. I mostly still don't, but it's interesting to see things from the stereotypical American perspective, my favorite (and most effortless) kind of perspective. I woke earlier this week not really knowing what a "referendum" was or entailed, and went to bed Thursday night wondering just why the heck the United States, a (purported) democracy, doesn't make more decisions in that way.
Think about it. The United Kingdom, a constitutional monarchy, had a contentious issue that needed sorting out, so what does Prime Minister David Cameron do? Calls for a national vote. He basically says "What do my people actually want?" and let them answer.
I've never even heard of a referendum or similar type of vote for a national decision here in America. We don't even have such a vote for the presidency! I've always thought this was a little odd, that for all the talk of democracy here in the States, our government seems to move decisions about the major stuff as far from the hands of the ordinary citizenry as possible. And sometimes we even get birthday cakes like the Obergefell decision, wherein the legality of same-sex marriage was decided, for the entire country, by a panel of (well-aged) judges in DC. It's confusing. From a stereotypical American perspective, of course.
It makes me wonder what happens to the minority, which is always the lost cause in a democratic process that values the absolute majority, 50+% (a hurdle the Brexit barely cleared); where do they go? What becomes of them? This is not a uniquely British problem, either. "Government by the people" seems an overstatement when (really, really close to) half the people don't want what is about to happen.
It also makes me wonder if America really is all it's cracked up to be. Heck, I'm a Black male, so I wonder that all the time, but this is more a philosophical dilemma than a response to direct oppression. It also makes me question democracy in general which I do often, before swaying toward and quickly back again from the pseudo-Evangelical idea that theocracy is ideal. Alas, I am resigned to the reality that I as a Christian must exist peacefully and non-resistantly under a democratic government that often will make self-destructive and immoral decisions (and apparently on my behalf). Is this what has befallen the UK? We will just have to wait and see.