Legal gymnastics

6th Julho, 11:30 PM

Damn this weather.

Tired of wandering the slippery streets, we’ve returned home. We found solace for a while, discovering the only worthwhile bar in this town. While every other place is deserted, or populated solely by pairs or triples of loud Americans or jabbering Danes, our bar was packed with natives. The kind of glorious place Americans cross the street to avoid.

All else tonight… All else is boredom, restlessness. I spent the last hours half-watching Catch Me If You Can in Portuguese, half listening to the round table discussion by the Argentinians in the lobby. Perhaps Argentinian. More likely Bolivian. Or Paraguayan. Is that the right word, Paraguayan? High speed Spanish for hours on end. These people make late night conversation an art form. How worthless. Bad mouthing the States perpetually as well. I can hear you, you fuckers, and I speak as much Spanish as you do. Stop talkin shit.

Strange pairs in this discussion. I’ve had so little exposure to the rest of South America outside of Brazil that these foreigners make no sense to me. Countries down here are their own little worlds, and these people are even more alien in BR than I. Capoeira, Portuguese, lazy as shit… If I could sit through a soccer game and stop being so sarcastic, they’d give me citizenship here.

But these weird bastards…

Argentinians, like the eucalyptus in California, are transplants which have come to flourish and dominate an entire ecosystem. Argentina is a suburb of Europe, and they rep it so hard. Haughty, aristocratic airs and a black turtleneck don’t mean you’re part of the First World, son. But good try.

The primary combatants in our featured round-table were the hotel clerk (not the grinning, grizzled Brazilian we kick it with, but the dour Spanish speaker) and the short, pudgy bastard from the room above ours. Chain smoking and making spontaneous, uninsightful remarks were their two gorgeous girlfriends.

You knew I was paying attention for a reason, didn’t you?

What kind of savage world do we live in that a chunky Bolivian and a god damn desk clerk with nothing better to do than talk shit into the wee hours get women like these?!?

Have you ladies ever even seen a Cadillac?

These people disgust me.

It frustrates me that, from a comprehension standpoint, my Spanish is completely intact. I can understand their (almost) every uninformed, overly politicized word. And yet as my Portuguese grows, my Spanish fails at every turn. I can’t seem to contain both languages in my mind simultaneously. If I speak Portuguese like a fourth grader, I speak Spanish like a toddler with Down syndrome. These cursed Romantic languages and their never-ending tenses run together in my brain like spilt chemicals. Of course my Spanish sounds terrible, it’s 70% Portuguese and 30% Mexican.

Fucking Bolivians.

Nothing to do on a night like this but sit in the entry-way and write.

Lucky you.

This trip has certainly brought to light the complex and blurred sense of nationalism that runs so thick in my blood. It’s a strange time to be a patriotic American, friends, strange indeed. There are so many grasping, twisting forces at work on every level that it becomes almost impossible to articulate. I’ll give it a whirl anyway.

Let’s start with the Loyalty Hierarchy, a graded scale of allegiances which I rep. This doesn’t include family or friends, obviously. Purely abstract political entities.

1) Hayward. (What what)
2) California (Knows how to party)
3) America (Fuck yeah)
4) Earth (> all other planets)

What this means is that if Hayward went to war with California, I’d join Hayward. If it was CA vs. the US, I’d go CA. You get The Idea.

I rep these things because I think it’s worthwhile. Each is meaningful and awesome in either a personal or global fashion. Thus, when involved in political discussions with non-Americans, I feel almost obliged to defend my shit.

Don’t think this means I stand up for shady shit my political identities of choice have done or continue to do. A Brazilian tells me the U.S. sucks, I’ll argue.

A Brazilian tells me Bush is Evil Incarnate, I’ll buy him a drink and shake his hand.

America’s record, especially in the last few years, is dodgy at best; it’s of no surprise to me that 90% of the world thinks we’re a nation of brutes and murderers. I don’t blame them; we’ve done atrocious shit for a long time, and lately it’s gotten even worse. Iraq. Iraq again. Panama. Vietnam. The Navajos. We’re a savage and warmongering nation, how could anyone who watches CNN think any differently?

Having someone from a country where people starve to death, illiteracy is rampant, and crime is widespread look down on me because my nation still uses the death penalty… it sucks.

It sucks especially because he’s right.

I can’t go to bat for my government, they’re corrupt, bloodthirsty swine with no respect for the rights of their own citizens, let alone citizens of the world. I can’t even go to bat for My People, because there are a disproportionate amount of American douchebags who support said government in all its bloody glory.

And yet, some flickering molecule of me still thinks my home is the shit. We’re not perfect, but we’re the best so far, a noble experiment in civilized freedom unlike any history has ever known. What about Mark Twain? The Blues? Thomas Jefferson? R. Kelly? What about all the good things?

I don’t know. It’s hard.

Hell, we avoid Americans every day down here. We’re more disgusted with them than the natives are. Lumbering, pasty brutes like those monstrosities from Carolina are the only Americans they know. Imagine if the only exposure you had to Americans was through Linkin Park, MTV, Fox News and fat southerners.

God help us if aliens land in Carolina. They’ll vaporize us all, for the good of the galaxy.

People in America also have the strange, completely incorrect notion that the U.S. has no culture.

No culture my ass.

Despite our spiraling economy and grievous incompetence as a superpower, our chief export to the world ( and Brazil in particular) is our culture. Everyone here listens to American music. Everyone. Every fifteen year old you meet wants to know if you’ve seen “Emee Nehm” or “Pehla Jyam”(Pearl Jam) or “Gonz e Hauzez” (GNR) in concert. Everyone wears Engrish shirts, American style T’s with random, completely meaningless phrases pasted all over them. The girls wear things that say “Amusing Flowers” or “Fun Girl” or “100 % Party Attitude”, the guys “Fed Up With It All NYC” or “Win Go Surfwild” or “American Grafit”. They have no damn idea what they say, just that American = cool. The big hits at the movie theatre are Sr. e Sra Smith, Cruzada (Kingdom of Heaven), and Guerra das Estreias Tres (Star Wars episode 3).

The love / hate relationship is brutal. Some treat you like a living god, others like a diseased rat. A weird time to be an American, without a doubt.

I meet a Brazilian, and they’re flattered with my familiarity with their culture and language. We talk culture, politics, the world… I apologize for my country, and they breathe a little easier knowing we aren’t all Christian Marines with guns on our hips and wallets made of Iraqi orphan scalps.

Sigh.

HST was right. The downward spiral of dumbness is in full effect. Our time has passed, and now the idiots and the Christians are speeding us to our doom. One day the dollar will give in completely, like a drunk Sophomore on prom night. Then all bets are off. Tanks and bombs and frumjillion-dollar missile defense systems and John Mellencamp and the NRA and the 700 Club and Jesus Your Lord and Oprah and Ford and the Wayans Brothers and the Stars and the Stripes can’t do shit against globalization. It’d take a god damn miracle to save us now. Babylon burns.

Then again, what the hell do I know.

I’m just a lonely atheist who voted for Kerry, watching the geckos eat mosquitoes and listening to the hiss of jungle rain in the night.

-T.

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