Even as Americans remain embroiled in the 2016 presidential campaign, their neighbors across the ocean in Great Britain are facing a major political decision of their own. This Thursday, people of the United Kingdom will vote in a referendum about whether to “leave” or “remain” in the European Union. With many polls too close to call, British celebrities like John Oliver and J.K. Rowling are weighing in. Oliver tackled the subject on Sunday’s episode of Last Week Tonight, and Rowling posted a long piece on her website with her thoughts. Rowling may not be a politician (though she loves getting in Twitter spats with them), but she does know how to create monsters. As she writes, both sides of the so-called “Brexit” debate have made monsters out of their opponents.
“As this country has entered what will come to be seen as one of the most divisive and bitter political campaigns ever waged within its borders, I’ve thought a lot about the rules for creating villains,” Rowling wrote. “We are being asked whether we wish to remain part of the European Union and both sides of this campaign have been telling us stories. I don’t mean that in the sense of lying (although lies have certainly been told). I mean that they are appealing to us through our universal need to make sense of the world by storytelling and that they have not been afraid to conjure monsters calculated to stir up our deepest fears.”
Although Rowling was careful to note that not all “Leave” supporters are racist or bigots, she did compare their campaign to that of Donald Trump, in that both propose ridiculously simple solutions to the modern world’s complex problems.
“ ‘Make America Great Again!’ cries a man who is fascist in all but name,” Rowling wrote. “His stubby fingers are currently within horrifyingly close reach of America’s nuclear codes. He achieved this pre-eminence by proposing crude, unworkable solutions to complex threats. Terrorism? ‘Ban all Muslims!’ Immigration? ‘Build a wall!’ He has the temperament of an unstable nightclub bouncer, jeers at violence when it breaks out at his rallies and wears his disdain for women and minorities with pride. God help America. God help us all.”
Although Rowling expressed empathy for both sides of the debate, and showed how each made monsters out of their chosen villains, she ultimately came down on the side of “Remain.”
“No, I don’t think the EU’s perfect. Which human union couldn’t use improvement?” Rowling wrote. “From friendships, marriages, families and workplaces, all the way up to political parties, governments and cultural economic unions, there will be flaws and disagreements. Because we’re human. Because we’re imperfect. So why bother building these ambitious alliances and communities? Because they protect and empower us, because they enable bigger and better achievements than we can manage alone. We should be proud of our enduring desire to join together, seeking better, safer, fairer lives, for ourselves and for millions of others.”