Opinion by Michael Royster

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Immediately after his formal swearing-in as Brazil’s President, Jair Messias Bolsonaro  gave two speeches.  The first was to the assembled Legislative branch and was full of the usual bla-bla-bla about unity and working together, creating a renewed Brazil, etc.

Michael Royster, aka The Curmudgeon.
Michael Royster, aka The Curmudgeon.

The second speech was made from a marble pulpit (called a “Parlatório”) jutting out from the Planalto Palace; here Bolsonaro showed a distinct tendency towards celebration of his middle name, which means “Messiah”.

If “messianic” is perhaps to strong a term for his preachment, “populist” will do just fine; so will “pugnacious”. The Curmudgeon has collected a few examples.

Example 1: “Brazil’s flag is green and yellow, and will never be red, unless we must shed our blood to keep it green and yellow.”

Example 2: Brazil has begun to be liberated from “socialism, the inversion of values, gigantic statism and political correctness”.

Example 3: The challenge is to end “the ideological indoctrination of our children, the distortion of human rights and the deconstruction of the family”.

Example 4: We will end the ideology that “defends bandidos and incriminates the police.”

Example 5: We will “remove ideological bias from our foreign relations.”

Example 1, which he shouted while waving a flag to his audience, half of whom were wearing green and yellow shirts, is food for his base supporters, directed against PT and all the leftist parties whose color has long been red. In the 1950’s Sen. McCarthy used to say “better dead than red” but he didn’t really believe it.

Example 2 is the same message, itemized: PT and its ilk are socialists, with “inverted” values (meaning they support LGBTQs), who favor monopolistic state-owned enterprises and political correctness.

Example 3 fulfills his campaign promise to eliminate anything vaguely leftish from basic education, particularly teachings about gender differences and human rights.

Example 4 is mere code for the hateful phrase “the only good bandido is a dead bandido”, a viewpoint shared by at least four out of every five Brazilians.

Example 5 is simply a lie.  Bolsonaro specifically disinvited the (leftist) heads of state of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua from attending his inauguration, while specifically cultivating the (rightist) heads of state of Israel and Hungary. If that’s not blatant ideological bias, the Curmudgeon will eat his hat.

The Curmudgeon will now point out the obvious: none of the quoted Examples is calculated to make anyone who voted for Bolsonaro’s opponent (more than one third of all voters) feel warm and comfy. They’re retreads of his campaign rhetoric, designed to get him elected, not to build successful coalitions of well-meaning folk to improve Brazil.

The Curmudgeon mistrusts messianic messengers, perhaps because his own given name (“Micha-el”) was, in Hebrew, a rhetorical question—“¿Who is like God?” Politicians who claim they are Messiahs claim to be like God — they can “deliver us from evil” — but they never do.

One poll taken after the inauguration shows around two-thirds of the Brazilian populace feeling optimistic for the future under Bolsonaro. The Curmudgeon does not share that optimism.

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