We spent the weekend at our favorite backyard campground, Loyd Park, a place we’ve visited at least once a month for almost a year. There is a certain calm here that is restorative. As we like to say, a little Loyd goes a long way.
When we arrived on Thursday evening, many in Britain were confident that the referendum to leave the European Union would fail. But by late night, we had already begun receiving alerts with the stunning news. We immediately worried that Britain’s decision to end its economic integration in Europe would fuel the growing distrust within the American electorate of the benefits of the global economic system, and deepen the broadly held view that government institutions are calcifying and don’t work well.
After World War II, the U.S. and its allies worked closely to reduce the potential for further international conflict, and had particular success in Europe. Our support of democratic governance and promotion of free markets helped lift billions of people out of poverty. We did this primarily through the NATO military alliance, the EU economic alliance, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. These institutions, and the policies they created, often faltered, but they also helped bring an end to the Cold War, reunite Germany, and rebuild Europe.
Now these institutions are under enormous stress as Europe tries to absorb millions of refugees fleeing the chaos of the Middle East, as Russia continues its aggression in Ukraine, and as fear of attacks by the Islamic State and other terrorists intensifies.
Britain’s decision to leave the EU resonates with a large part of the American electorate that is less inclined to respond to crises across the globe and focus instead on making America great again, whatever that means.
All of these issues occupied our thoughts throughout the weekend. We discussed and debated them, we listened to news coverage and we read responses online. Finally, we walked around Loyd Park. A little Loyd goes a long way. We don’t know what to expect in the coming days, weeks, months, or years. We don’t know what twists and turns await us in the presidential election. But we do know that we can find a place of calm at Loyd Park. We know that we can come here to clear our heads and gain perspective. Sometimes you have to tune in to turn out.
Will the Brexit vote cause Britons to become more insular, more isolated? Perhaps. Or maybe it was a much-needed shake-up to a complacent system. In any event, it prompted much thoughtful conversation at our little backyard campground.