Another day, another Brexit drama, another example – or two or three – of political cupidity and stupidity.
By now, Brexit buffs know that BoJo – alias Boris Johnson, the Brit Donald Trump, how I love how Maureen Dowd describes them maliciously as “prolific authors” – is out, having been stabbed in the back by erstwhile supporter Michael Gove, who decided he wanted to be a king rather than a kingmaker and thus run for prime minister himself.
Personally, I think Gove is barking up the wrong bamboo and that Home Secretary Theresa May is going to be the next PM.
May – a Remain-der who has shown a judicious temperament that her male colleagues have lacked – has said that 1. There’s no turning back, but 2. There’s no rush, and 3. It’s time to get away from the guys messing things up.
Let’s concentrate on 1. And 2. and save 3. for another post, shall we?
French President François Hollande – needing to look strong as he faces a hard-right challenge at home from Marine Le Pen, the French, female Nigel Farage – said the Brits need to cowboy up and get out now. Of course, that’s the last thing the Brits want to do as the markets – which came roaring back to make up virtually all their Brexit losses – can easily be destabilized.
In the Another Country Heard From Department, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon continues to press the case for her country to become independent and remain in the European Union – even though a think tank said Scotland could become “Greece without the sun” if Gove becomes PM and carries out his threat to slash Scottish funding. (You can’t make this stuff up.)
Nicola, have no fear: Gove is never going to be PM.
The greater worry is Northern Ireland, which voted to Remain in the E.U. and may now see its border with the E.U. card-carrying Republic of Ireland close. Pray that this doesn’t lead to political as well as economic tensions.
Why does Brexit fascinate so? The narrative threads are unending – catnip to a writer. But the real reason may be more Freudian. England is the mother country – a thought that bears remembering as we bask in the post-Independence Day glow. Brexit has been like returning home to find out the mother whose calm capability and accomplishments you admired all these years is really a mass of raging dysfunction. For all that was “gangsta” about the way the British Empire treated its American colonies – in the words of historian Niall Ferguson – there is much that is admirable. Magna Carta, Shakespeare, Winston Churchill, “Masterpiece Theatre,” “Keep Calm and Carry On” and all that stoic, heroic stiff-upper-lip, can-do stuff. But there’s a flip side to this self-possession and it’s a kind of imperial superiority. Not for nothing are the British always cast as Romans in all those movies about Jesus and Spartacus. (The latest, “Risen,” finds Joseph Fiennes excellent as the world-weary tribune who oversees Jesus’ Crucifixion and then has to find his body when it seemingly disappears.)
The Roman Empire, the British Empire: They’re all the same to us Yanks, who just as smugly identify with the James Deans and Marlon Brandos in any fight. But the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree and the Rebel Without a Cause and the Wild One are long gone. We are the empire now. A favorite sub-theme of Brexit has been: Could it happen here?
I don’t think so as we are too diverse a country, but it has been horrifically mesmerizing to see how quickly a great civilization can descend into chaos – particularly when there’s a leadership vacuum. (The latest departure – Nigel Farage, who resigned from UK Independence Party, leaving the mess he helped create to be cleaned up by others.)
Whether it’s the Romans or the Maya, it comes to us all. And nature reclaims its own as the barbarians stand ready at the gates.