A Day for Brazil to Count
Its Democratic Blessings
There are two wrenching, overlapping moments hitting Brazil right now: one punctual, threatening to postpone the future for another 40 years. The other is a permanent state been of self-doubt, of insular auto-sabotage that betrays a profound fear of realizing the dreams that it has been dreaming for so long.
Thus, if Brazil were a person, March 31th would feel like having a screwdriver making turns while deeply encased in the gut. Any other year, it’d be a day to be quickly forgotten, as it’s been for over half a century. But this year, the pain’s different and the bleeding, worse.
When the tanks took the streets of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Porto Alegre, Belo Horizonte, and other Brazilian capitals, on that March of 1964, they were not just aborting democratically elected President João Goulart. They were strangling a nation trying to come on to its own.
For the 1950s had been Brazil’s rebirth, and the promise of a time unlike anything that had come before. It was the decade the nation discovered its blackness, its youth exploding with possibilities, and most people started moving to live in modern cities, with an emerging industry to boot.
Suddenly, Brazilian popular culture, music, cinema, fine arts, architecture, even its passion for football, acquired an exuberance, a gusto for living that surpassed that of all ethnicities that had been thrown in the mix since the founding of the nation in 1500.
WHEN BOOTS HIT THE GROUND
That’s what the truculent military coup hoped to squashed like tropical cockroaches. The country’s powerful oligarchy, and the always unsecured middle class, readily embraced the muscular support from the U.S., who couldn’t bear seeing Brazil fall into the Soviet Union lure.
The military showed a unified front, swiftly consolidating power, even as they were at each other’s throats behind the scenes. Their single-file determination drove great Brazilian minds to exile, or to an early grave, but also had a tenacious resistance to fight from day one.
While tirany indebted the nation, and mercilessly punished dissent and free expression, Brazil grew around and despite it. It took 21 years to restore democracy. It may take many more (more)
* John & João
* Dead Presidents
* 50 Summers
for Brazilians to trust it, and resist calling on back its brutal single mindedness.
THE RISE OF PSYCHIC CHILDREN
If the potential leaders of that now smashed dream were being driven away, other generations that grew in the shadow of military parades and dangerous zealots demanding, ‘if you don’t love it, just leave it,’ were carving other niches to breathe, breed, and thrive.
For a while, their depressed elders, still in their 20s but for all purposes, wasted in foreign lands, called this young lambs, the generation of silence. That’s because instead of guns, they would favor guitars, weed, and the ‘imported culture of the oppressor.’
Even the rich musical tradition took a suspicious mainstream attitude, mistrusting rock as if it was an instrument of alienation. But that didn’t last: music just become more urgent and soon enough, there was just one real enemy: censorship and death by conformity.
WHAT’S IN YOUR POCKETS?
There was a moment that, while the world lived the turmoil but also the ecstasy of the love and peace movement – and the many political assassinations that came along with it -, young, long haired Brazilians tread carefully. The police state hunted the guerrilla and the hoards of gregarious, always-high teens with the same zeal.
Popular lyrics and the rhetoric of self-expression became coded. Double-entendre would foil censors and enlighten an increasingly sophisticated audience. Cheap art was not about the empty calling to arms cliche, but elaborated puzzles, deciphered over joins in underground bunkers.
Yes, there were disappearances and tragedies and the hopeless feeling that the troops would never go back to their barracks. In some ways, they didn’t, judging by masses asking for their return now, circa 2016. But they did go away, and once again, Brazil could hope for self determination.
SUDDENLY, IS IT THE LAST SUMMER?
But before we get overwhelmed by again having to carry IDs at all times, of losing freedom to go or will to fight, of hearing about the old dungeons’ preferable torture method, the infamous Pau de Arara, let’s hope this day will become instead a back to the future moment for Brazil.
Before reality becomes subversive, as it used to be considered, at least enough to be detained and harassed by cops – just as it already is for women and blacks, and Mulattos and indians, and the poor, and the gay and all sexual minorities, let’s hit the breaks at once.
Let’s all get up and remember the tragedy, the darkness, the stupidity, the waste, the misery of those years, where uniformed thugs could do as they pleased to the vulnerable and the idealistic. No, we do not want another coup. As the increasing roar from the streets grows louder, let’s join in: Não Vai Ter Golpe.