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Monday
Feb012010

Visão Brasileira

From what I've seen and heard, people from different countries have difficulties when bringing up sexuality with their peers. In Europe, especially the Scandinavian countries, sex is not taboo anymore. Gay and lesbian people can have their normal life without people bothering them and are respected by society. On the other hand, homosexuals in the Middle East live in fear of being killed.  One of their politicians has even said  "we don't have any gay people in this country". Okay, I'm convinced.

In Brazil, things are quite different. Before talking about gay life and "how it is to be gay here" I need to say a few things most people don't know about the country of soccer and carnival.

Brazil is a huge, rich (with a lot of poor and a few überrich people), it is basically a catholic, prosperous and western country. To understand it you have to understand how it used to be 150 years ago. We basically export raw materials and import culture (first from the Europeans, then the Americans). The meaning of being successful 150 years ago was: to be catholic, to have a lot of slaves and a huge farm. "Just plant coffee (especially in the 19th century) and be happy".

After the British applied pressure over our owning of slaves we eventually set them all free. It sounds great, doesn't it? But we basically threw them in the street. Literally speaking. What happened in Germany after the end of the Soviet Union, in the 90's? The government guided the old soviet society, giving them money in order to fit the system. What happened in Brazil, 120 years ago? Nothing. Nothing was planned.

In the meantime a lot of immigrants from Europe and Japan arrived in Brazil, following the promise of a better life. They started living in the south of the country, in the states of São Paulo, Paraná, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul.

In this mix of cultures Brazil has had its industrial revolution. It became a republic, then a dictatorship and eventually (in 1988) a democracy.

What does the history of Brazil have to do with the gay experience here? Well, all the morals and the structure of the society has a lot of sad memories from those days. Poverty, patriarchy (we were a colony and then a monarchy), Iberian culture (our families were totally patriarchal) and Catholicism (Portuguese gift), African influence in popular arts (music, for example) and a mix of European modern ideals (populism, anarchy - my state, Paraná, has had the only anarchic experience in the world - atheism, communism, etc). 

So, when the slaves were set free they didn't have anywhere to go but to the mountains.  Nowadays there is a lot of poverty and violence in the big cities in the favelas (slums); we don't have a good educational system - most people are illiterate; people tend to focus on religion (especially the evangelicals) and the corruption is a sad part of our politics that is just endless (our monarchy heritage).

If you were poor, madly religious, in a violent city, in hot and tropical weather, what would you do? Watch TV, play soccer, don't pay any attention to politics except to blame it for everything, wait all the year for the carnival, listen to music with no meaning, etc. But, in my opinion, the worst of all is the lack of education seen in the whole population. People don't go to good schools and don't understand what they read plus the prices for books are extremely high.

 On the matter of homosexuality: what do people think about it?  Is there space for gays in a society full of people who don't read, who are part of a patriarchal and "apish" society, who don't respect the rights of people, who blindly follow religious dogma, etc.  I don't think so, when all society can think is "Those evil and nasty creatures must be discriminated against. Sodomites, burn in hell!" there is no room for gays (This would suit the 18th century. But it's scary to hear it nowadays).

 What about me? I'm sensitive, young, smart, full of ideas (and ideals) and gay. I don't show others that I am, but I don't hide it either. That's the difference. My family knows, my dad hates it, my mother supports me and I just have a few smart and pleasant friends who are good to be with.

I don't kiss in public; I don't hold my boyfriend's hand in public. But why am I ashamed of it? Better - why am I afraid of it? Well, probably I just want to avoid the people's judgments. Sound fair...?

Brazil is not Iran, but I am sure we are far, far away from Sweden. Maybe we are just stuck, the same and old Brazil... and here I am.

I am sure there will be a lot of changes in the next few years, at least I hope so. Later I'll write about the legal details, and the changes that appear to be coming through new laws to Brazil.

This is my country, my gay life and... me.

Saturday
Jan302010

Leading like Lincoln

I want to start off by saying that when I created this site I did not intend for it to be overly political.  In fact the goal was to get members of the LGBT community to share their story in the hopes of aiding in advancing LGBT rights through contact.  Contact in the sense that people who view the site could get many different views on life in the LGBT community and not just what is portrayed in the media.  The Lifestyle blog was a concept that my friend Brian and I came up with so that anyone could share aspects of their lifestyle with the world.  That concept remains.  Anyone who wants to blog is encouraged to contact us and we will either post a one time blog by you or will be happy to create for you an account that gives you access to blog as often as you like.

What this has turned into in very short order is what amounts to a political commentary blog.  This has happened because I am the one who has been doing the majority of the blogging and because politics is a huge part of my life, so it still is appropriate for the “Lifestyle” blog.  It will continue to be this way until others add things, but I do not want that to scare people off.  Please by all means contribute what you like when you like.  With that said here comes yet another political blog but perhaps one that is less partisan than some of my previous posts.

Yesterday President Obama ventured to the GOP retreat in Baltimore Maryland where he gave a speech and then entertained some questions from the Republicans that were present.  With no teleprompter and no notes he answered each of their questions, gave factually accurate rebuttals to their accusations and pointed out why politics the way they are being conducted cannot serve the country.

I don’t care who you are; you have to admit that it was an impressive spectacle, especially when you consider that it all played out on television.  Pundits are comparing it to Question Time that takes place in the British parliament.  For those who don’t know, Question Time is when the Prime Minister and other government ministers face parliament where they are grilled with question after question.  If you have never seen it, I highly suggest watching it.  The difference here is that Obama was only facing Republicans instead of both Democrats and Republicans.

While this is a new event in politics today, this is a page directly from Lincoln’s playbook.  President Lincoln was an excellent leader not because of what he did, but because of how he did it.

Lincoln had a very specific style and process to his leadership, mainly that he would ask someone to do something and if they didn’t he would follow up with them.  The best place to see this is in his dealings with his military officers, which parallels what Obama is doing now.  Lincoln would make a request, and if it was not completed he would go to the officer personally and speak with them, try to persuade them to do what he wanted.  In the end if they did not follow Lincoln’s orders and requests he would replace them.

Here we see Obama who has made the request that Democrats and Republicans work together to pass legislation, notably health care reform.  His request has fallen on seemingly deaf ears, so we see Obama going to the Republicans and speaking to them directly.  Obama did not make them come to him, he went to them; in terms of leadership this is a very strong move.  It shows that Obama has respect for them and appreciates their participation (or perceived participation).  If they continue to block his plans, in the Lincoln model he would fire them, but since Obama cannot do that he is framing it in a different way.

In his meeting with Republicans today Obama made it very clear that the Republicans themselves have created a noose that is getting tighter and tighter around the party.  By calling his plans socialist and over the top they have made doing business with Obama toxic for themselves.  However, Obama has set the stage so that the Republicans can either continue to block progress and make sure that nothing happens, or they can back off from their rhetoric a bit and meet him halfway to help move forward legislation to help the American People.

I think that this is great politically for Obama but more importantly for this country.  It will be interesting to see how the Republican Party responds to today’s events.  I would also like to see Obama speak in a similar manner to the Democrats, and perhaps we will see that in the coming weeks.

If you missed today’s events there are two embedded clips below.  The first is a clip of the speech that Obama gave, and the second is the question and answer session that followed.  How do you think he did?  Your comments are welcome!



 

A Recommended Read:

Lincoln on Leadership

Wednesday
Jan272010

Digesting the State of the Union

Tonight saw President Obama’s first state of the union address, which was followed ten minutes later by the GOP rebuttal from Virginia governor Bob McDonnell.  By the time many of you read this you may already have heard pundits breaking down what was said and what was done during Obama’s speech.  I know this because Rachel Maddow and I had the same observations.  Namely that on the Republican side the seats were warm while on the Democratic side the seats were cold.  Warm, because the Republicans hardly ever stood up.

As President Obama discussed things like getting the money that taxpayers gave to banks to bail them out, the Republicans sat.  As President Obama said we need to reform health care because the cost of health care in this country is stifling economic growth and recovery.  I did however notice that Republicans left their seats when Obama said that he did not want the United States to come in 2nd.

It is almost beyond belief to me that Republicans would sit like statues in their seats while the president put forth a plan to get money back from banks.  Money that average Americans worked hard to gain and banks are frivolously throwing away on big bonuses.  Finally as one of the uninsured, unemployed Americans in this country I was left with a bad taste in my mouth that not one Republican stood for health care reform.  No matter who you are you know that the price we pay for health care is too high.  My brother who suffers from a pre-existing condition just got his latest letter from the insurance company telling him that his premium had been raised to more than $400.00 a month.

I would for a moment like to address 35 seconds of the president’s speech roughly.  It was when President Obama spoke about repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.  We in the gay community have been hearing this since Obama was on the campaign trail, and I am getting a bit tired of hearing him prattle on about this while nothing is done.  Obama has now had a year in office to settle in and it is time that he put some of the issues of the LGBT community on the top of the pile.  If this policy is not repealed by the legislator I hope he is prepared to work in other ways to repeal a policy that has cost taxpayers millions of dollars and discredited the hard work of Lesbian and Gay soldiers over the past 17 years.

Immediately following the Obama’s speech John McCain released the following statement:

"In his State of the Union address, President Obama asked Congress to repeal the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy.  I am immensely proud of, and thankful for, every American who wears the uniform of our country, especially at a time of war, and I believe it would be a mistake to repeal the policy.

This successful policy has been in effect for over fifteen years, and it is well understood and predominantly supported by our military at all levels.  We have the best trained, best equipped, and most professional force in the history of our country, and the men and women in uniform are performing heroically in two wars.  At a time when our Armed Forces are fighting and sacrificing on the battlefield, now is not the time to abandon the policy."

To Mr. McCain I have this to stay: This policy is flawed and you are out of touch with the country that you are trying to govern.  Because of this policy the United States armed forces have dismissed from duty highly skilled soldiers including Arabic translators.  I cannot think of a time when we needed Arabic translators more than we do today.

Senator McCain also showed up on the Sean Hannity Show on Fox News almost immediately after the GOP response (yes I took a deep breath and watched Fox News).  Hannity opened his show reminding his viewers that we had just heard from “The Anointed One.”  From there he introduced McCain where they discussed among other things how Obama is still playing the blame game leading McCain to coining the acronym BIOB Blame It On Bush.  Well, I think Obama was just giving credit where credit was due Mr. McCain.  It is hard to argue with history, and Obama was simply pointing out that while he has spent $1 trillion that the country doesn’t have, the previous administration had spent much more and lost the country a surplus left behind by Clinton.

Hannity also went after Obama’s claim that he had saved two million jobs.  Saying that he couldn’t see where they were.  I think one of the hardest things to see is something that was never missing, and that may be one of the hardest things for people to see.  Unless you know someone whose job was saved by the stimulus package it is hard to see the saved jobs.

Finally I was glad to see the President grow a pair.  The Democrats have the second largest majority in the history of the United States and yet they are having a hard time getting things done.  This irrational fear of the filibuster has stopped them dead in their tracks.  It was great to see Obama stand up before the legislative body and remind them that they are there for the people and that it is time to stop running away from the fight and dive in.

Overall I thought it was a good speech with many concrete ideas and roads to follow for the next year.  So there are first thoughts on his speech, let's see how it moves forward.  What do you think? Share your thoughts below.

 

Links of Interest:

Transcript and video of the Speech

Notes on the Speech from the White House

Bob McDonnell Rebuttal

Wednesday
Jan272010

Weigh in on Year one of Obama Administration

Well, here we are.  The first State of the Union address by President Obama.  I have to say that while I have not been too happy with him on all fronts I think he has been doing a good job.  With the media reporting that he will make an announcement tonight in regards to repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell it promises to be an interesting speech.

Last night on the Rachel Maddow show (see below) she did a great piece comparing the last year under the Bush administration and the last year under the Obama administration.  There was also some promising news on the health care front as the House has come up with a way of moving forward and passing some actual reform.

What do you think of Obama so far?  Gay, Straight, Black or White lets hear it give us your opinion.

 

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

 

In other news the Defense has rested in the trial of Prop. 8.  Now we wait for the Judge Walker to review the case, and then we will have closing arguments presented before the final decision is made.  It looks like closing statements will be heard sometime toward the end of February or the beginning of March.  We will of course keep you updated on everything that is going on.



Tuesday
Jan262010

Hate Rears its Ugly Head in New Hampshire

Recently Alfred Baldasaro of New Hampshire went on a tirade against gay marriage, and said that the state of New Hampshire is selling children to homosexual couples for $10,000.  Baldasaro goes back to the old standby that New Hampshire by legalizing gay marriage has opened the door for Incestuous relationships between mothers, fathers and their children.  Same old GOP bullshit trying to scare people into revoking the rights of those who are different from them.

You can watch the video below filled with Baldasaro's hate speech.  He starts about 20 seconds in and makes his comments about children being sold to homosexuals at the end of the clip.  As a lifelong resident of New Hampshire this makes me sick!  This is not what our state is about. 

New Hampshire passed legislation in 2009 making it legal for gay couples to marry that went into effect January 1st 2009.  Shortly after voters defeated marriage equality in Maine, the political machine responsible for legalizing hate and discrimination in California and Maine turned at least one if its eyes to New Hampshire.  Tomorrow opponents of gay marriage will ask a House Committee to repeal the law and put gay marriage to a popular vote.

 

Related Links:

Al Baldasaro, Marriage between one man and one woman

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