Closer to home, the border could be reinvigorated providing a bonanza for ‘good’ Republicans to make fortunes out of fuel-smuggling and dumping toxic waste, while not-so good Republicans will celebrate the centenary of the Easter Rising by blowing up as many people as possible.
Some of these nightmare scenarios may be the result of self-inflicted wounds. In America, Trump has made racism respectable again. He gets an endorsement from a Kl Klux Klan leader and goes UP (yes, up) in the polls. Black people are thrown out of his rallies just for being there and beaten up for good measure on the way out as the Donald yearns for the Good Old Days when hecklers would leave meetings on stretchers. He wants to make America great again without defining when that magical Belle Epoque actually existed. Was it when Rosa Parks sat at the back of the bus? Or was it when Emmett Till was beaten to a bloody lifeless pulp for having the temerity to be sassy to a white woman? Trump doesn’t say, nor of course will he. He has written off a fifth of the world’s population as murderous fanatics, far too dangerous to be allowed into a land which slaughters 30,000 of its own every year in senseless gun violence and he has vowed to build a wall along the Rio Grande to keep Mexico’s rapists and illegal immigrants out. In another crowd pleasing touch, he’ll even make the Mexicans pay for it.
The sad thing is, millions have bought into this thinly-veiled racist nonsense and the only person who seems able to stop it is Hillary Clinton, a deeply divisive figure herself. Commons sense tells us Trump can’t win but he has re-written the political rulebook and all it could take is another major terrorist outrage or financial slump to propel him to the White House. Fasten your seat belts folks, it’s going to be a bumpy ride between now and November.
People on the extremes of politics tend to vote more than moderates and that of course, is what the Brexit camp is counting on. The out camp includes honorable people who resent the EU’s undemocratic nature but also unashamed xenophobes and racists. The xenophobes, I fear, are in the majority and just as Fox News created its Frankenstein’s monster in Trump, so the Murdoch press in Britain has nurtured a seething resentment of all things foreign. The wealthy foreigners of Europe, ‘Krauts’ and ‘Frogs’ in Sun-speak, are meddlers intent on taking away the pound and making us eat square bananas. Only today (16 March), the Express website is railing about Germans calling the Queen ‘horse-faced’, the EU costing the UK £370 million a week, ‘European’ ticks killing British dogs and an ‘EU tidy-up’ spelling the ‘end of the white stork’ and that is only some of the scare stories. In the right-wing press, foreigners without money are either Jihadis, drones or free-loaders, determined to force their way down the Channel Tunnel to take our jobs, claim our benefits, rape our woman and behead us. Decades of this relentless propaganda will ensure the referendum is a close one and if Murdoch wins, Britain will march into isolation and Boris into Downing Street where he will do Rupert’s bidding.
Where all this will leave ‘are wee country’ God alone knows. The importance of the border has declined in recent years but it could re-emerge in the wake of Brexit, not necessarily at Newry, but at Larne or the Stena terminal at Belfast. Unionists will find out how British they are really are when they discover that making it more difficult for foreigners to get into Great Britain will make it more difficult for them too. In Dublin, the 1916 celebrations look likely be soured by the murders of Irishmen by other Irishmen carried out in the name of the same rebels being honoured. In the twisted imagination of Republican dissidents there will be another big commemoration in a century’s time to honour them.
Some of the outcomes are beyond our control, but those living in the UK or US should think carefully what they do with their vote. Ordinary people can do little about armed thugs who are determined to kill but they can keep racists and hate-mongers out of office.