My taxi driver on Friday afternoon admitted that ‘we can’t throw out all the foreigners that are already here, but at least we can stop any more coming in.’ Asked what he thought would be achieved by this he replied that ‘I want my country back, I want my town back; look at it, Lincoln used to be a great little town (sic) until all these foreigners started arriving; now I can’t even get an appointment at the doctors.’

I suspect he may have already toned it down a bit as I’d earlier told him I had voted Remain; I can’t be sure if the fact I was wearing a clerical shirt made any difference, probably not.

I can’t comment on the taxi driver’s experience but last time I visited my GP’s surgery the waiting room wasn’t full of ‘foreigners’, but there were a lot of born and bred Britons of my age and above, especially above.

The failure to get a disenchanted electorate to believe the facts when they were presented to them is just one of the reasons for this sorry mess we find ourselves in. Many simply preferred to have their prejudices endorsed by myth rather than challenged by truth, because, as we all know, truth is so often hard to stomach.

Make no mistake about it, the reluctance to welcome the stranger into our midst, the refusal to embrace the different, the hostility directed at those who actually contribute to the wealth of our island nations and the abject fear of progress toward a more inclusive interconnected world didn’t suddenly emerge during the referendum campaign, it’s been a long time coming.

‘I’m not a racist but…..’ has always been the opening to the most racist of comments. ‘I’m not antisemitic but…..’, ‘I’m not homophobic but…..’, ‘I’m not against Europe but…..’ and so it went on. Our inability to own our prejudice, which is actually part of our evolved nature as Homo Sapien, has been a problem; but what is now emerging is a confidently expressed prejudice, unrestricted by the moral boundaries of a society that frowned and sought to act upon it. The flood gates have opened. I suspect the preamble will no longer be so commonly heard. Throughout the country people are having comments frequently directed at them that if not entirely absent before then at least rare. This is what happens when the eloquent racist is given a platform from which he can spout his unadulterated bile. Sharp suits, snappy soundbites, the illusion of power are still powerful tools in the influencing of people, it was ever thus. Our instinct is to rally round the one who seems to express our fears and who will protect us from the assault, real or imagined.

But, and this is where it gets messier still, 52% voted for Brexit, 48% didn’t. In a clear ballot, yes or no, in or out, that is a mightily slim majority. I can think of no organisation that would press on with radical change when the margin is so slight. In the Church we can’t even rescind a minute from a previous meeting without there being two-thirds of those present and voting that agree to do so. No one would press on with removing the pews or changing the hymn books when the congregation is split down the middle, or at least they ought not; if they were to then they should expect a lot of trouble down the line.

Now before anyone starts jumping up and down saying that these are sour grapes, I have to say that such a claim would be grossly inaccurate. The Leave campaigners had already said that if the vote had gone the other way and they were just 4% short of a majority they would have re-grouped and fought another day.

The truth is that to press on with delivering all that the Brexiteers have promised won’t unite the country but divide it further still. We recognised this when the Scottish referendum highlighted how many wanted change, so change was promised and made. The disenchanted were listened to, and rightly so. Yes we should honour the result of the EU referendum outcome, it was an open and transparent vote after all, but honouring that outcome isn’t the same as giving everything that was promised to the 52%, it is as much about respecting the very strong feelings of the 48%.

It is clear that the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland is as divided today as we have been for a very long time, maybe more than a century. The warnings made over a number of years that the growing inequalities within our society coupled with the austerity measures would eventually tip the balance has come into stark, divisive reality.

As someone who has spent a lot of my life reflecting on how, less than a century ago, one of the most cultured nations in history could fall for fascism and allow the greatest crime in human history to be perpetrated to take place in the lands they controlled I wonder about the similarities between Germany in 1930 and England, yes I do mean England, today. A period of economic uncertainty, a loss of confidence, a longing for a past which seemed so much more glorious, a growing hostility to the different, a mistrust in the democratic process, a populist party that played on these factors whilst rubbishing both the system and the apparent political elite; add to these the longing for a charismatic, strong leader.

The Church was found wonting as the Nazis rose to power; more often than not it either coalesced with the mood of the day or cowered in the face of its greatest challenge, few stood tall.

At this moment in our history I believe we have to hold fast to the truths that have stood the test of time and challenge the false promises that were made to garner support; we have to offer a clear alternative to the nurturing of the fear that is ripping our communities apart; and we have to put the case that selfish isolationism will make other nations, not just our own, vulnerable.

I don’t blame my taxi driver for views that I find difficult to hear, he is after all far from alone, but I do acknowledge the burden we must all bear in having helped create what is a regressive and profoundly disturbing situation.  In addition we must now take up the responsibility that is ours and ours alone in challenging this slide into the destabilisation of society before even more is lost.

We killed Jo.

Much of the media must take some responsibility for the assassination of a Member of Parliament. They have drip fed suspicion, mistrust, and disrespect for anyone called and elected by us through the finest democratic process in the world. And now, as they so often do, some have tried to shift the focus on to the mental fitness of the alleged assassin, even to the point of claiming that he had been let down by the services appointed to help such people.

Many politicians are also culpable, by employing rhetoric that only a very few years ago would have been seen for what it is, divisive, racist and bordering on fascist. There has always been a very fine line between patriotism and nationalism and in recent weeks that line has been crossed on a number of occasions. For a senior politician to raise the spectre of terrorist links to his opponent, or another to imply that a failure to vote a certain way will understandably lead to violence, or to describe people who have been forced from their homes, taken great risks in lengthy journeys to find a safe haven for their family as swarms of migrants threatening our jobs, health service and goodness knows what is irresponsible in the extreme.

There was more than one finger on the trigger when Jo lay on the ground outside her office in West Yorkshire on Thursday.

Whenever we branded the stranger in our midst as a threat, whenever we increased the tension in the debate on Brexit, whenever we fanned the flames of hatred, we killed Jo.

A nation that wants to go it alone in a world of increasing connectivity is a nation that has lost sight of the reality. A nation that fails to heed the lessons of its own history, let alone the history of other nations, is a nation heading for disaster. A nation that rewards the strong while dismissing the weak, claims that there is no such thing as society and expects every individual to walk a tightrope without a safety net is a nation that has abandoned the young, the elderly, the weak and the infirm. It is a nation that has killed Jo.

Thankfully that is not the whole story. Jo gave her life to and for the things many of us long for, a nation that is tolerant of the other, inclusive and appreciative of difference, hospitable to the stranger, a refuge for the distressed and displaced. It’s a nation that is worth fighting for and even dying for. Others did so in the past and now it is our turn to do likewise in the present. The challenges are different but our response has to be of the same moral fibre: to stand tall in a crowd, to speak clearly amongst the hostile voices and to be strong in the presence of those who would drag us all into the abyss.

It was once said that ‘all it takes for evil to succeed is for good people to do nothing’; I want to add that all it takes for evil to succeed is for good people to make the wrong choices. Today, and in the coming days we have choices to make. We can only make the right ones by taking into account a number of factors. Is my choice selfish or does it embrace the common good? Is my choice short-sighted or does it take into account the rising generation and those not yet born? Is my choice based on fear or hope, hate or love? Is my choice informed by history?

The murder of Jo Cox by someone who appears to have been influenced by far right propaganda is a wakeup call. But all those who have promoted a hateful agenda by pouring it into the discourse without a thought for the consequences must also bear the weight of her tragic death.