Don’t drape yourself in my country’s flag during World Cup, then demand a military coup | Opinion
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It is difficult to explain to foreigners what the football World Cup means in Brazil.
Call it a religion, a cult, a national obsession. When the national team plays, shops close, companies send their employees home earlier and children and teachers skip classes. Streets are green and yellow, Brazilian flags hang from balconies and football shirts become the nation's official attire.
Patriotism is not as ingrained in Brazilian society as it is in America. But during the World Cup everyone becomes a patriot, even those who, like me, don't care about football. A Brazilian victory can unite a country that rarely feels national pride. A defeat like Germany's 7-1 loss to Brazil in 2014 becomes a moment of national mourning.
The 2022 World Cup feels different.
It comes after a divisive presidential election, as some supporters of ousted President Jair Bolsonaro are calling for military intervention to reverse the results of a fair and democratic election.
Known as the "trump card of the tropics," Bolsonaro has co-opted the Brazilian flag, the colors green and yellow, and the national team jersey as a symbol of his far-right ideology.
Its ardent supporters wrap themselves in the flag, false patriots bent on dismantling Brazil's fledgling democracy and returning it to an era of darkness and oppression. All because her guy lost an election. Their version of patriotism does not put the country above itself. It puts ego and personality cult above the desires of the millions who elected former President Luis Inacio “Lula” da Silva to a third term last month.
I don't want to be involved with that version of patriotism because it's not about protecting the nation. It's about ideological extremism.
Unfortunately, this is represented by something as innocuous as a football shirt. I can no longer wear the Brazilian colors during the World Cup without being misidentified as a "Bolsonarista".
It's hard to feel a sense of national unity when too many of my Brazilian compatriots are calling for the return of a military regime that stripped personal liberties and tortured and killed dissidents. They look hypocritical when they admit that they don't want Brazil to become a second Venezuela. (I also recognize that not every Bolsonaro voter supports military intervention, and many want a return to normalcy.)
It saddens me that I can't wear the colors of my homeland without feeling like it's a political statement.
Bolsonaro is not the first or last politician to use patriotism to drive a wedge between citizens. In the United States, some conservatives have appropriated the flag, the national anthem, and the constitution. It's as if only one side of the ideological spectrum could claim love of the country. Suddenly, "liberal" or "progressive" is synonymous with anti-Americanism. I've been told so many times, "Go back to your country" because of my opinion.
It's confusing when those who claim such undying love for the flag are also spreading lies about the 2020 election and when they want to put people in elected office who may refuse to confirm election results in the future. I'm relieved that voters in many parts of the country have turned down vote-bucklers running in this year's midterm elections.
I believe very few people hate their country. The overwhelming majority want to do better, even if they don't agree on how to do it. I can believe that a person's ideas are wrong or even harmful without attacking them as unpatriotic. I don't have to wrap myself in the American or Brazilian flag to show that I love my country of choice or homeland.
When I watch Brazil's second game on December 2nd, I don't have to wear a yellow and green shirt. I will celebrate the Brazilian national team because it is my culture. Football brought my family together on Sundays. It's part of some of my fondest memories from my childhood.
Bolsonaro can claim the Brazilian flag as much as he wants. He can't take my country - and the country of the millions who voted against him - away from me.
Isadora Rangel is a member of the editorial board of the Miami Herald. This column originally appeared in The Miami Debate, the free weekly Miami Herald Opinion newsletter. To register, go to miamiherald.com/TheMiamiDebate.
President of Brazil since 2019
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