On the matter of Britain’s membership in the European Union, which Lionel Shriver discussed in her fascinating recent column [“No Exit,” Easy Chair, April], I am a reluctant Remainer. That is, I believed in what some described as the Remain campaign’s “Project Fear.” The opposition summoned a dystopia for us to regard as we voted: the end of all we love.
Even so, I am not arrogant enough to expect British democracy to be scuppered to soothe my personal anxieties about what may happen with the lorries at the port of Dover or whether salad will make it down the A30 road to my home in Cornwall in the days after Brexit. The result of the 2016 referendum must be honored, although, as Shriver writes, it probably won’t be, due to Remainer tactics justified by arguments ranging from “the voters didn’t understand the question” to “some people who voted Leave are now dead.” I trust Remain leaders less after hearing these preposterous statements.
Shriver’s key insight was this:
Even if E.U. membership is indeed an economic advantage, is a higher GDP worth the price: the spectacle, conducted on an international stage, of the people’s will in a democracy coldly defied? I don’t think the answer is obvious.
I think it is obvious, and I am more pessimistic than Shriver about Britain if Brexit is denied. She thinks we will sulk but essentially endure with our sodden bunting and our terrible weather. I think it will be worse than that.
As I made my way through Lionel Shriver’s rambling tour of the Brexit crisis, I kept wondering what her point might be. By the end, I could only assume that the essay was animated by a deep respect for referenda and democracy.
It’s unclear to me, however, that the issue can be so starkly cast in those terms. In 2016, the United Kingdom democratically, if only marginally, voted to leave the European Union, without the slightest idea of how this might be accomplished in practice. A year later, a new Parliament was elected and charged with sorting out the specifics, but, despite all the high drama and missed deadlines, they have so far been unable to do so.
As this Parliament was itself democratically elected and so presumably represents the wishes of the voting population, it would seem reasonable to conclude that the question of democratic representation is in fact complicated here. Much has changed in the intervening three years, not the least of which are reliable polls showing that a solid majority wishes to remain. Now that this has become clear, and now that the U.K.’s own elected representatives cannot agree on how the situation should be resolved, a second referendum does not seem unreasonable.
As an underling publicist, I send books to Christian Lorentzen for review consideration. He’s thrown away my press materials countless times, I’m sure. Reading his piece [“Like This or Die,” Criticism, April], I was moved that he’d put into words the dissatisfaction I feel with roundups and listicles.
The books I work on are small by industry standards, so any bit of publicity feels exciting. But the listicle kind of praise is always over too quickly, like sugary candy. When I read a real, incisive piece of criticism, even if it’s negative, I feel proud that a seemingly small book has risen to the literary occasion. It is a pleasure I hope never to lose.
New York City
Rage Against the Dying
As a bioethicist, I find John Crowley’s perspective [“Works of Mercy,” Essay, April] dismayingly typical of the pressures terminally ill people are subjected to in the name of compassion. In extolling hospice care and disparaging “the destructive consequences of heroic measures repeatedly undertaken with little or no chance of success,” Crowley could hardly be more in accord with conventional wisdom. But this one-size model does not fit all.
Terminally ill people who consider opting to prolong their lives should not be admonished against “struggle.” Their choice merits just as much respect as the choice of hospice. No one should force Atul Gawande’s view of “death as a possible successful outcome,” on patients who think differently. In my own case, I maintain that loving life means loathing death.
Felicia Nimue Ackerman