Let’s take a walk.
I am Brazilian. My president is Jair Messias Bolsonaro. The guy is an anti-LGBTQ+ new right leader who actively advocates for the destruction of marginalized groups. From framing HIV patients as “too expensive” for the state, pressing for the unregulated exploration of the Amazon forrest and removal of indigenous populations constitutional protection, his presidency has meant a reversal of all conquests against the staggering inequality that plagues Brazilian society since its conception.
Oh, and one other thing: Bolsonaro is a covid conspirator. From members of his inner circle
claiming the virus is a Chinese hoax to doing everything in his power to discourage supporters from wearing masks, Bolsonaro has demonized scientists and the World Health Organization as well as public health system advocates who are fighting the pandemic. This week, he tested positive for covid and people be laughing.
Bolsonaro’s career has relied on political divisiveness. His “us” versus “them” perception of the world has influenced beyond his circle of supporters. His antagonization of political opponents as criminals, terrorists or unpatriotic forces can initiate a cycle of violence and agressiveness that is easy to fall into. Today, I’d like to argue for not celebrating his illness or rooting for his demise.
Brazil is currently facing one of the greatest crisis in its chaotic history. Over 70 000 Brazilian citizens died from the novel coronavirus, not counting all the underreported deaths that are simply ruled as “severe respiratory syndrome” or “pneumonia”. As we now know, so many of these deaths were preventable through simple social distancing measures.
Brazilians are grieving without being able to say goodbye to their dead. A nation with persistent civil unrest ads to its mental health calamity an atmosphere of distrust in instutions and social dispair without hope for a “resolution” in the forseeable future.
Personally, I believe Bolsonaro should be held accountable for the thousands of preventable deaths. He had access to many national and international capable professionals warning of the risks related to public gatherings and yet, he incentivised them. Even with overwhelming evidence that hidroxycloroquine does not work, he spent public money on the national production of the medicine, as well as warned Brazilians to take it even if they had not tested positive for the virus, even if it can have a grave impact on their health.
Leaders are powerful creatures. They set examples, they teach civilians how to react to events because they are in the center of the public eye. Their actions (or lack thereof) are inherently political, observed as examples even if the leader did not meant to. Especially the presidency – an office which in the culture of democracy, has historically evoked the idea of being morally dignified.
Now, we have the spectacle witout the content: the leader whose picture hangs in every Brazilian embassy is unethical in every possible way. He is an inspiration only to those who cannot see the harm he causes and yet, I think we only fall deeper into his laboratory of fear as social and traditional media publishes post after post wishing for his death.
To paraphrase Michelle Obama: “When they go low, we really should go high”.
My greatest criticism to Bolsonaro is related to his lack of moral compass and empathy for other human beings. The biggest difference between Bolsonaro and the people who see his wrongdoings should be the idea that every human life is valuable. Bolsonaro believes indigenous people are not worthy of state protection, Bolsonaro believes women should earn less than their male counterparts because they are under “risk” of getting pregnant and that trans people are not, well, people.
Bolsonaro is a threat to democracy because he does not believe we are all created equal, are capable of change, are worthy of forgiveness, respect and support. He does not believe people that disagree with him should speak, have rights, be protected.
Let’s prove him wrong. Criminals should not be killed. Bolsonaro is a criminal, but he should not be killed. By a virus, by a knife…
I know this can seem like a very kumbaya thesis, but there are pragmatic elements that go against cheering for his non-recovery: it gives his base the idea that Bolsonaro’s supporters and detractors are all the same. It gives the idea that politics is just two groups who are slowly assuring each other’s mutual political and physical destruction at every death threat, every destructive meme.
I believe Bolsonaro, Trump, Duterte are leaders who should be questioned, tried, judged by history, the media and a court of law. Nevertheless, they should not die. I hope Bolsonaro recovers, but I also hope he pays for his wrongdoings in a way that does not sink the rest of us to his low moral tones.
Push for him to be arrested, indicted, politically isolated. Let’s get that judgment day for him – on zoom, amidst the mortals and the country he is destroying with every speech.
Writer & Editor | Sociologist & Media Studies MA | Communications Strategist