HELEN BURTON: We need to stand together against intolerance

Helen Burton SUS-160113-100959001
Helen Burton SUS-160113-100959001

On Saturday I attended a birthday celebration for the Queen organised by volunteers from Pevensey Parish Council and the Pevensey Senior Support Group.

I took my housemate and daughter along and we sang songs and waved our flags with the best of them. I must admit that I’m not hugely royalist, but I’d be happy to attend anyone’s 90th birthday party and it was great to be celebrating with other parishioners. Any opportunity to be joyful together is a gift. The Union Jack and the British flag are everywhere at the moment as the Queen’s birthday celebrations roll on and the football kicks off. With the EU referendum fast approaching this comes at a time when many of us are reassessing what it means to be British. Do we want total sovereignty or are we proud to be part of the European Union? These are not questions for me to answer, we all have to make up our own minds, but as the vote approaches I would make a plea for us all to be tolerant of each other’s opinions. We don’t have to agree on which way to vote or why, but I think we do need to accept that whichever way the vote goes that the future is very uncertain at the moment and people are worried. In truth, neither side can give us hard facts about what will happen after the UK has made its choice, and nerves are getting frayed. There is a lot of intolerance around at the moment and whether it be related to the referendum or the football, I will be glad when it’s all over.

The violence erupting in France and the horrific homophobic attack in Florida are both stark reminders of where intolerance leads. We need to be better than the ignorant minority and stand together despite our differences, whether it be political opinions, which football team we support or even something we have no choice in such as our sexuality. The first gay pride event is being organised in Eastbourne for next year and I cannot think of a better way to stand up against bigotry and hatred. Another opportunity to be joyful together. The organisers Bourne Out LGBT have a website (www.meetup.com/Bourne-Out-LGBT/ and Facebook page (www.facebook.com/BouneOutLGBT) and I urge you to show them your support. Whatever our sexuality I am proud that in this country we have an equal right to express it, a right to free speech and a human rights act that protects us all. When the referendum is over, whichever way it goes, we need to make sure that all of our rights are protected, whether they be enshrined in UK law, European law or both. Whatever happens we will remain British and European, and those of us that fight for fair governance will probably still have a fight on our hands. Let’s just hope we are all still speaking to each other when the dust settles.