Reflections from an expat American to expat Brazilians


[versão em português]

Emma Sheppard is a writer and an English teacher

When Donald Trump was running for President, I knew that it was bad. I knew, intellectually, that he was speaking to a profound and terrible impulse within thousands of my countrymen. But I felt insulated from it, I had to keep reminding myself that it was real. This was partly due to the fact that at that point I had already lived outside of the US for 6 years, but even more so because, for various reasons of demographics and the communities I had constructed for myself, my social media feeds were entirely devoid of the vitriol I knew so many others were encountering. They were, instead, screaming with the rage and fear and resistance that I felt, even, or, in someways, especially, from afar.

Fast forward to today, though, as Brazil, a country I lived in for only two years but that still occupies a special place in my heart and in my view of the world, is in the midst of their own confrontation with the kind of hate and anti-democratic impulses that have taken hold in my own country. And for reasons that I am still grappling with, every day that I log on to my Facebook, that conflict is front and center. I can see no pattern based on what I understand about race, class, or region for who I see with a picture draped in the falsely nationalistic blue and green with the name Bolsonaro and whose profile remains red for Haddad. Especially identifying as I do with the North, and not just the reasonably urban landscape of Belém, but with the South of Pará, where the roads run out of asphalt and there are yellowing billboards promising electricity that has never come. I struggle to understand how people from those places that, at least from what I can see, are the recipients both of PT support and Bolsonaro derision, could possibly support someone whose fundamental definition of Brazil leaves them even further behind than they already are.

In the US, as insulated as I was from Trump supporters, by virtue of my class and race (and of course, my expatriate status), I am largely insulated from his policies. As I watch the struggle playing out on my feeds every day, in a land I love but have always ache for the progress that has not yet been made, I see people who will be far less insulated from the harm Bolsonaro can do, and support him still. Just as I saw in 2016, I see people saying that they don’t want to lose friends over politics, which sounds right in theory. But we are no longer speaking of politics, we are speaking about the identity of a country, and who belongs in it. That answer should be everyone, no matter their race, gender, or orientation. That value is one to vote with, and one worth fighting for and protecting.

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