Curtain Raiser

Past Legacy & Future Hopes, Colltalers

As Americans spent Memorial Day pondering a foreign policy that has thrown the U.S. into two brutal and senseless wars, in the span of less than a generation, down South American way, Brazilians are becoming increasingly aware about their own brutal and senseless past.
While President Obama renews his commitment to put the Guantanamo prison out of commission, and lead the U.S. into a new era, hopefully free of drone killings, Brazil has taken a few important steps to come to grips with the dark legacy of its 1960s military dictatorship.
Although this pretty much stretches the parallels between the two nations, there’s still a common denominator that may determine if both will succeed in their aspirations: the role Americans and Brazilians will choose to play to guarantee the future of their choosing.
It won’t be easy for neither, but nor can they afford not to go for it. Perhaps a decisive turn towards peace and the rule of law in the America of both hemispheres, by its two biggest countries, is just the inspiration the world needs to get its mojo going again.
It’s been almost 30 years since the military coup d’etat ran its course in Brazil, beginning in March of 1964. Compared to what happened more or less at the same time in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, to name a few, the Brazilian dictatorship was relatively less brutal.
But no less guilty of wreaking havoc with human rights, or responsible for the killings, torturing or the disappearance of perhaps a few thousand people, whose unknown fate has thrown their names, families and friends into a disgraceful downward spiral.
The time is more than ripe for Brazilians to find out exactly what went on in the dungeons and back alleys of a regime that decimated an entire generation of politically naive but deeply idealistic activists, whose alleged crime was to opposed the constitutional breakdown.
For younger Brazilians, who have already grown disillusioned with a budding democracy still working its kinks, such example of courage and willingness to risk their own lives for their ideals is something sorely amiss among the current elected leaders.
Despite sharing, with many other countries, the frightening and often lethal reality of tanks in the streets and early morning raids, no person, military or otherwise, has had to face the Brazilian courts for their role during the authoritarian regime.
A different story went on in several neighboring nations, in which generals and members and collaborators of the juntas have already been judged and sent to jail for crimes committed during the period. Without these simple but fundamental steps, no nation can move on.
Notwithstanding what’s going on in Guatemala, and a few other Latin American countries, Brazil has perhaps the biggest responsibility in shedding light over those dark years, in line with its continental size and recent unsurpassed growth, even for global standards.
Just like many other nations in the region, since the military officially returned to their barracks, in 1986, Brazil has elected a string of civilian presidents whose personal and public lives have been rooted in the political struggles of the 1960s and 70s.
No one can take away from President Dilma Rousseff, who was tortured during the time, the courage of taking a decisive step, establishing the National Truth Commission, dedicated to investigate human rights violations committed by both sides during the conflict.
It has already produced some results, and stepped on precious toes, but it lacks resources and, halfway through its two-year deadline, time to fulfill its mandate. It many ways, its work is bound to fall short of what the society longs to accomplish.
Thus, it may be up to that same society, which for the most part has enjoyed the longest stretch of social and economic stability in Brazil’s history, to now press on to keep that sense of awareness about the political past growing. Brazil can’t afford it any other way.
A similar sense of disillusionment and dread has been creeping up within the American society, as President Obama has shown a disheartening pragmatism, of arguably the worst kind, when it comes to the U.S.’s waging of its wars, officially declared or otherwise.
An alarming trend of going after whistleblowers, and at times, a willingness to skip ‘formalities’ dictated by the constitutional right to a fair trial, even for our worst enemies, have run counter President Obama’s ability to deliver powerfully inspirational speeches.
As Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin was being led away from the president’s presentation last week, she’d already expressed – and not at all unlawfully – the frustration that many who supported him from the start have had to endure in the past several years.
The precision, persuasiveness, and empathetic deliverance of his words have seldom been matched by actions of his administration, which at times has been scarily close to what we all used to loath about the previous one, including the secrecy and abuse of power.
Thus, while the president has deservedly earned kudos for his efforts to implement a comprehensive health care policy, his sincere aim at helping curb urban violence, and overall benign presence in American politics, where he’s failed, he has done so spectacularly.
The astounding grow of the secret surveillance community in the U.S., the anemic support for punishing corporate malfeasance in Wall Street, including a scandalous lack of foreclosure regulations, among other crucial things, have his fingerprints all over them.
Above all, where he’s been collecting his greatest defeats is where it may hurt the most the soul of the American people: the ability to galvanize the country around a same ideal of peace and prosperity, based in the equanimity of opportunities and trust in the system.
If that sounds like yet another one of his speeches, it’s because the essence of such concepts has been reduced to rhetoric. It also doesn’t help that the president has turned his back on new grassroots groups such as the Occupy movement.
Along with a precarious relationship with labor unions, a tenuous link with immigrant rights causes, and a group of close associates skillful at Washington politics, but little else, no wonder even a downright mad right-wing GOP has managed to score against him.
For many thousands of Americans, no two Memorial Days are alike, mostly for the tragic losses they’ve had to endure. Still, as fewer serve in uniform now than ever, for the (other) 99%, all we wish for is that this one that’s just ended had at least one unique quality.
It’s not too farfetched to hope, or even expect that a year from now, if not all at least a massive percentage of troops will have returned home for good. For the sake of the U.S., heaven knows we need that. But for that to happen, it’ll take more than a president.
Once again, if Brazilians and Americans are done hoping for a superhero to take them by hand, we may just have an opportunity here. The parallels between the U.S. and Brazil may have been stretched to the limit. But not the resolve of these two peoples, one hopes. Have a great one. WC


2 thoughts on “Curtain Raiser

  1. WordsFallFromMyEyes says:

    “drone killings” – like the way you said that.

    This was all very interesting to me as, pardon my ignorance, but I don’t know a lot of it. Well, it’s sort of impossible to stay up with the politics of each and every country – but that bit about whistleblowers, I didn’t know that trend. Disturbing.

    Great write again, Wesley. I can tell you’re very learned.


  2. This is a very fine analysis. You mention failures I have had no opportunity to notice. Truly, I would not want to be in President Obama’s shoes. Best regards, Micheline


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