Jair Bolsonaro

Jair Bolsonaro by Daryan Dornelle, 2016

I hope readers will forgive a fairly lengthy digression before we proceed to the vexed question of the President of Brazil.

One of the most interesting books I’ve ever looked at – I do not exaggerate – is National Anthems of the World (Orion: 10th Revised edition, 2002). This 624-page masterpiece, first published in 1960, contains the lyrics and music of all known national anthems. You could say that it is a rich and finely-grained celebration of cultural diversity. Alternatively, you could say that all the folly, delusion, vanity, hypocrisy and arrogance one might associate with pedlars of national pride and identity are laid bare in its pages. The truth lies somewhere in between. Though I tend to the less charitable view, I mean no disrespect for the book’s editors, W. L. Reed and M. J. Bristow, who have created and sustained, through ten editions, a breathtaking work of scholarship. Get the book, and if you can’t sing and play the piano, find someone who can. There is an enthralling armchair adventure in store. When it takes you to South America, you will notice a marked Italian influence – highly entertaining echoes of Rossini and Verdi abound in these unashamedly martial and triumphalist tunes. The anthems of Peru, Venezuela and Uruguay are good examples. For the dictator, all provide perfect background music for smoking cigars, making love, dressing up and raiding the national exchequer, prior to one’s inevitable imprisonment or assassination.

Turning to Brazil, its anthem was composed by Francisco Manuel da Silva in 1831. We all know the tune – a cheerful Rossini-like march. Since Brazil almost always goes a very long way in the FIFA World Cup, the anthem is played more often than those of most other countries.

The lyrics, however, are less widely known to non-Latin Americans. At first glance there are few surprises amid the predictable recital of anodyne references to the beauties of land and people. One thing, however, does stand out – a jewel set with paste. In the second stanza, we learn that “Teus risonhos, lindos campos têm mais flores” (thy [Brazil’s] smiling, pretty prairies have more flowers), immediately followed by a line from Antônio Gonçalves Dias: “Nossos bosques têm mais vida” (Our forests have more life). This is from Gonçalves Dias’ poem Canção do exílio (The Exile’s Song), one of the best-loved poems in Brazilian romantic literature, written when the poet was away in Portugal, studying law, homesick for his native land. Gonçalves Dias acknowledged his debt to Goethe by supplying the first verse of Mignon as an epigraph – “Kennst du das Land, wo die Zitronen blühen” (Know you the land where the lemon trees bloom…), etc.  Here are the first two verses of Canção do exílio, where the line quoted in the national anthem can be seen in its original context. Much is lost in translation, so if you don’t know Portuguese, have a suitable Brazilian recite the original while you look at the English.

Minha terra tem palmeiras
Onde canta o sabiá.
As aves que aqui gorjeiam
Não gorjeiam como lá.

Nosso céu tem mais estrelas,
Nossas várzeas têm mais flores.
Nossos bosques têm mais vida,
Nossa vida mais amores.  
My land has palm trees 
Where the thrush sings.
The birds that sing here
Do not sing as they do there.

Our skies have more stars,
Our valleys have more flowers.
Our forests have more life,
Our lives have more love.

You could be forgiven for wondering what any of this has to do with Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, until you pause to consider the vandalism he has inflicted on this beautiful country – on its valleys, forests and lives –since he came to office in January 2019. As to the valleys and forests, his cynical stewardship to date has resulted in the loss of over 3,700 square miles of the Amazon jungle. His scaling back of federal agents in remote areas, coupled with his contempt for national and international environmental programs, has turned the rainforests into an Eldorado for (largely illegal) loggers, ranchers and miners. As to “nossa vida”, the “lives”, his disgraceful conduct during the Covid-19 emergency has made even Donald Trump seem tolerable in comparison. Indeed, his public utterances have been consistently more offensive than those of the Pussygrabber. But enough commentary. Let the President speak for himself. Here are some representative examples of the wisdom of Jair Bolsonaro. As you read them, try to imagine why some if not all of the utterances, repulsive though they are, might attract rather than repulse a significant number of people in any given electorate.  

On Covid-19 fatalities (this back in April): “So what? I’m sorry. What do you want me to do? My name’s Messiah, but I can’t work miracles.”  On the Amazon: “The interest in the Amazon isn’t in the Indian or the fucking tree, it’s in the mining.” On the benefits of child labour: “Look, working nine, ten years old at the farm, I was not harmed at all. When a nine-year-old, ten-year-old goes to work somewhere, it’s full of people there.” On the merits of straight as opposed to gay sex tourism, as it relates to family values: “Anyone who wants to come here to have sex with a woman, feel free. But we can’t let this place become known as a gay tourism paradise. Brazil can’t be a country of the gay world, of gay tourism. We have families.” On the necessity of not being an indiscriminate rapist: “I would never rape you, because you don’t deserve it…” (this to federal deputy Maria do Rosário, at the Chamber of Deputies, in 2003; he later clarified his position: “I’m not a rapist, but if I was, I wouldn’t rape her because she doesn’t deserve it.”). On parenting, specifically what to do if one’s son turned out to be taking drugs: “I would beat him. You can be sure of that. If acting with energy is torturing, he’ll be tortured.”  “On the correct measure of tolerance towards homosexuality: “I will not fight against it nor discriminate, but if I see two men kissing on the street, I’ll beat them up.” On being a tolerant husband: “I never hit my ex-wife. But many times I wanted to shoot her.” On the penal system:  Brazilian prisons are wonderful places … they’re places for people to pay for their sins, not live the life of Reilly in a spa. Those who rape, kidnap and kill are going there to suffer, not attend a holiday camp. Are we obliged to give these bastards [criminals] a good life? They spend their whole lives fucking us and those of us who work have to give them a good life in prison. They should fuck themselves, full stop. That’s it, dammit!” On the consequences of legitimizing same-sex marriage: “It’s a mess. The next steps are the adoption of children and the legalization of pedophilia.”

After all that, perhaps the best that can be done is to revisit Canção do exílio, this time the full version.

Minha terra tem palmeiras
Onde canta o sabiá.
As aves que aqui gorjeiam
Não gorjeiam como lá.

Nosso céu tem mais estrelas,
Nossas várzeas têm mais flores.
Nossos bosques têm mais vida,
Nossa vida mais amores.

Em cismar, sozinho, à noite,
Mais prazer encontro eu lá.
Minha terra tem palmeiras
Onde canta o sabiá.

Minha terra tem primores
Que tais não encontro eu cá;
Em cismar – sozinho, à noite –
Mais prazer encontro eu lá.
Minha terra tem palmeiras
Onde canta o sabiá.

Não permita Deus que eu morra
Sem que eu volte para lá;
Sem que desfrute os primores
Que não encontro por cá;
Sem que ainda aviste as palmeiras
Onde canta o sabiá.
My land has palm trees 
Where the thrush sings.
The birds that sing here
Do not sing as they do there.

Our skies have more stars,
Our valleys have more flowers.
Our forests have more life,
Our lives have more love.

In dreaming, alone, at night,
I find more pleasure there.
My land has palm trees
Where the thrush sings.

My land has beauties
That cannot be found here;
In dreaming – alone, at night –
I find more pleasure there.
My land has palm trees
Where the thrush sings.

May God never allow
That I die before I return;
Without seeing the beauties
That I cannot find here;
Without seeing the palm trees
Where the thrush sings.

2 thoughts on “Jair Bolsonaro

  1. Absolutely brilliant! In a few minutes, I learned so much, and so interestingly presented. As I give away my piano to make more space for books, I was delighted to be able to listen to the national anthem and read the words. I am happy and THANK YOU.

    Joanna

    Like

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