Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Fulbrighter story: Brazil for Obama!

He is a loved man all over the place!

The billboard says in Portuguese:  Pensar O Novo.
In English that can be translated to:  Think new.
So why don't you?

This blog contains:

1.   An opinion piece by the Editor of Obama IS America!

2.  A piece written by Percussionist and 2008-2009 Fulbright Grant winner, Catherine Barnes.
(Her work was originally a facebook note post).

And we begin;

So people have been referring to Obama sarcastically as 'the Messiah'.  Well what does that word even mean exactly?  

I would imagine that the sentences below describe at least part of what a term like 'messiah' should mean--in a practical way, of course:
  • Someone who is revered
  • Someone who is a purely good person.  
  • Someone who seeks to bring positive change to the world and is supported by so many intelligent people from ALL backgrounds in this quest.
  • Someone who is Peaceful and works hard to be that way. 
The excitement, passion, awe and glorification of Obama at home and around the world is more like the energy that must have been around Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Muhammed Ali, Nelson Mandela, Shaka Zulu, Frederick Douglas, Joan of Arc, Mother Teresa, Che Guevara, Michael Jackson, and other people of that magnanimous nature.

I think he is a hero to the people that need him to be a hero right now, not just here in the US, but AROUND THE WORLD.  I think an Obama Presidency will be very healing of some of the MAJOR wounds this country suffers from--like a long history of discrimination, slavery, colonization, and imperialism of one culture against many others in a brutal way.  It won't mean that those histories don't matter and that we should forget about them.  We should NEVER forget about the bad parts of history--we need them to keep ourselves in check.  But it is time that we stop acting and living in the past.   

Brazil is a country with a very active and very deep culture of racism.  Brazil is often compared to the US in terms of race relations and the way that race ties with class.  Except that there is a MUCH higher percentage of Brazilians who identify as mixed and non-White, which makes Barack Obama even more of a shining star:

He represents equality more clearly than anyone who has run for President in a long while

Please read the article below.  It is beautiful.

I'm keeping up with the US Presidential Election via the New York Times email updates, but if I were to cancel my subscription, I don't think I'd be any less informed on what's going on right now in America; I just have to talk to Jorge*, the guy who works for my landlord.

OK, so Jorge is...whatever the male version of a maid is (is there a word for that in English?): part handy-man, part gardener, part pet-care specialist, part cleaner, and yes--part PLUMBER--the poor guy has had to fix my shower TWICE since I moved in--Jorge is, in my opinion, far more legit than his American counterpart, who is neither a plumber nor in any kind of tax jeopardy if Obama is elected, according to the New York Times. Anyway, Jorge is the kind of guy that either campaign would KILL to have as a symbol: affable, hard-working, and dirt poor--but unlike Joe the Plumber, Jorge the Plumber supports Obama. Every morning when he sees me, he greets me like this:


(Obama is going to win!!)

and I always say, "Espero que sim, Jorge." (I hope so, Jorge.)

and then he always says, 


(NO! Obama is GOING to win! I'm CERTAIN!)

Jorge is SO excited about Obama that sometimes I forget he can't actually vote for him. So today, when I read in my Times email digest that Colin Powell has endorsed Obama, I was floored. I had to tell Jorge, even though I wasn't sure if he would know who Powell is, or what this means for the Obama campaign...but I figured he would want to know, anyway.

"Oi Jorge, bom dia! Guess what! Today the guy who was Bush's secretary of state when he started the Iraq war said that he supports Obama!"
"Ah, eh? That's great! Obama needs the support, he's only four points ahead in the polls!"
How the hell did he know that? "Jorge, where did you find that out?"
"Oh, it's always on the news. We're very concerned about the American elections here...American politics have a HUGE impact on Brazil."

I knew that, but I didn't expect someone like Jorge to be paying that much attention to it; after all, working-class people in America probably don't even know what language they speak in Brazil (why don't we ask Joe the Plumber?). Jorge knew all about the Iraq war. He knew all about September 11. He knew all about global warming. He knew all about how the euro is kicking the dollar in the ass. He knew all about the lending crisis behind the economic recession. He even knew all about U.S. foreign policy: "It's like someone walking into someone else's house and moving all of their things around without asking them." In fact, the only thing that Jorge didn't know was McCain's name; he kept calling him, "o outro cara" (the other guy). 

Jorge is not unique among Brazilians in his support for Obama; anytime you tell someone that you're American, they immediately want to talk politics (just like the jerk in the bar from my "Proud" note); once you say you're voting for Obama, they breathe a HUGE sigh of relief. When I went to the post office to mail my ballot, I got into a conversation about the election with the lady in front of me. I told her that I'm from California, which is already going for Obama, so my vote doesn't really count, and she misunderstood this to mean that I'm voting for McCain; she looked at me like I had leprosy and said, "You're NOT VOTING FOR OBAMA?!?" (We got that straightened out pretty quickly.) And just today I was on the bus and the woman sitting next to me was wearing an Obama button. I asked her if she was American and she said no, but a friend of hers had been in New York and had brought her the button as a present. A present. 

But Brazilians are also aware of the dangers inherent in Obama's situation, and often say that Obama needs to be very, very careful; Jorge even compared him to Bobby Kennedy (how does he know about Bobby Kennedy?! There are people in America who don't even know who Bobby Kennedy is!). I have a friend in São Paulo who is adamant that Obama is going to die. And another acquaintance of mine here in Rio told me the following joke:

Obama dies and goes to heaven, and Saint Peter greets him at the gates.
"Hi there, what's your name?"
"I'm Barack Obama."
"Nice to meet you, I'm Saint Peter. What did you do during your life?"
"I was President of the United States."
"Wow, that's great! For how long?"
"Twenty minutes."

On the one hand, they have a point: Obama is a black man running for president in a very racist nation. But on the other hand, I think they're jealous; Brazilians LOVE to tell you that they're not racist, but I don't think Brazil is anywhere near as close to having a black president as America is...

So what should we take from all this? That if the nation of Brazil could vote for the President of the United States, they would vote for Barack Obama (the notable exception being McCain's Brazilian ex-girlfriend). I think I can safely say that if the rest of the world could vote, they would vote for Obama. Having said that, there are Americans don't care for the opinion of the world; I have a friend who runs a pro-Obama blog who received the following comment from a McCain supporter: "I'm voting for president of the United States, not president of the world!" COME ON, kid...you're a Republican! Where's you're American ego? Like it or not, we ARE (one of) the most important country(/ies) in the world...and the fact that George W. Bush and his administration have gotten away with the things they've done is proof that we as a nation are not taking this responsibility seriously enough. If you don't believe that, just take a look at what the greed of American banks has done to economies worldwide. It's not just about "Joe the Plumber;" the policies of the next president of the United States will also affect my galera here in Brazil: the jerk in the bar, and the lady in the post office, and the lady on the bus, and my friend in São Paulo, and my friend who told me the awful joke, and yes...they will affect Jorge, too. And if he can say it, so can I:

Obama vai ganhar. 

...and when he does, I am going to buy Jorge a CERVEJA...

*It's pronounced "Zjor-zjee,"...I know it looks like "Hor-hay"...but unfortunately, Brazil doesn't speak Spanish...

Catherine Barnes - Percussionist
Fulbright Brazil 2008 - 2009
http://youtube.com/barnespercussion (**NEW**)

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