Thursday, June 20, 2013

Brazil – If They Think We’ll Go Away Quietly...

Tonight, I witnessed something breathtakingly beautiful – 15,000 people marching in the streets of Juiz de Fora for a better Brazil. 15,000 people –  peaceful, cheerful, jubilant because the street was ours. 15,000 united in trying to change this country because it is time to do so. 

When you read or watch the news tomorrow, you will probably see reports about vandalism, rioting, looting – sensationalist stuff, reports that would discredit us if it were representative of who we are, but it is not. Yes, some of that did occur in other places, but in this country, we know that it is a very small faction, that it is totally unrepresentative, that some of it is probably planted to make us look bad. So, rather than dwell on this,  let me tell you about my evening, about our march, about who we are. We are everyone. We are Brazil.

I’ve been to demonstrations before, here and elsewhere (mostly elsewhere), but tonight, oh let me tell you: we were one. There were no political parties spouting their rhetoric, there was no “unified agenda”, no single demand. There were signs about everything but they all pointed in one direction, to one idea – a better Brazil. And, so we took to the streets.

We took to the streets signing and chanting. At one people, a young man handed me a small plastic whistle. He had a bag full and he was handing them out left and right. And so we walked on, now singing, and chanting, and blowing our whistles. Some were even dancing. Soon, a few marchers began intoning the national anthem and everyone joined in. Believe me, I’ve never heard that back home – singing the national anthem during a protest march, much less singing it with a lightness of heart and with joy. Here, it is natural. These people in the streets, these people demanding justice, can only be called one thing. They are patriots, but they aren’t grim faced about it. Theirs is a cheerful, spontaneous patriotism. 

And so we marched, or rather, walked. There was nothing martial about us. We were festive. Every once in a while, people would start applauding, so I would look around to see what was causing that applause. Often I had to look up. Families were on the balconies or at the windows of their apartments along the streets lining our route. They were also applauding, waving white cloths or Brazilian flags. People working in restaurants and stores would stop and applaud. Those workers were joined by the customers they were serving. They were of all ages: elderly with youngsters by their sides. In many apartments, those living in them flipped their lights on and off as a way to signal their support. And then there was the confetti. I don’t know how many times I looked up to see confetti wafting through the air, tossed from on high in a show of solidarity.

Tomorrow, you will read about the vandals. Here there weren’t any. I saw only one incident in which a couple of young men began attacking a structure at a bus stop. When we saw them, everyone sat down in the street and began to boo them. Sheepishly, they quit what they were doing and slipped away. End of story, end of vandalism.

Oh, and one more detail. It might not seem important to you, but to me it is. As I was leaving the area of the protests, I passed by a group of six or seven policemen. I wished them a good evening. Each and everyone of them returned my greeting with a smile and a friendly tone. You see, they, too, are Brazilians. This, too, is their country.

So this was my evening, but it didn’t happen just in Juiz de Fora. The news here is reporting that there have been demonstrations in over one hundred cities all over the country involving more than one million people. Our demands, though varied, are all for a better Brazil. As Brazilians are saying, the giant has awakened. We want an end to the waste and corruption that has wracked this country for too long. We want an end to the impunity enjoyed by the politicians and businessmen who are robbing this country blind. We want an end to attempts to undermine the concept of an independent judiciary. We want hospitals and schools, a living wage and adequate housing. And, most of all, we want Brazil to have the chance to be the country we all know it can be. We want a Brazil unencumbered, able to reach its potential

If they think we’ll go away quietly, they are mistaken. We will be heard.

See you in the streets!


For photos from today's demonstration in Juiz de Fora, please use this link (Juiz de Fora na luta!):

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