One of Those Years

Amazing, we’re back at that time of the year when, if we allow it, we get carried away into remembering. It’s a little early, I gather, but for reasons I guarantee you will understand by the end of this chronicle, I will be taking a short break starting next week, this time for real, not the usual break limited to the editor’s routine in order to focus on the translator’s or the designer’s routine, or one of the other roles I may fulfill on a daily basis, if you know what I mean. I will stop to preserve my sanity. And, if I can, to follow my own recommendation to get away from the social networks for a few days, in order to be able to reflect on the countless events and their consequences we encounter in our daily, hyper-connected rush, ufa.

All I have to say about this year that is ending, my friends, could be summed up in one sentence, short and sweet: “I have changed.”

I’ll go further, though, quoting some things that have left their mark, though not all of them. If I did that, this would not be a chronicle, but a saga; or, as a friend on Facebook wrote, “one blow after another.”

It’s even more amazing to realize that the acts of terror that killed the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo happened in 2015; while I’m writing, I’m still doubting it, but I swear it’s true. This was a year that, frankly, began badly and is ending worse — in terms of terrorism, at least, considering the additional attacks in Paris and California.

In 2015, Islamic terrorism — dotting the I’s and crossing the t’s (ouch, I expected the original Portuguese expression here to be untranslatable) — shot with no honor to the top of our list of greatest fears. For those who live in the US, like I do, there was no issue of greater importance, especially if we add to the picture “minor” side effects, such as the immigration and refugee crises, which have taken over the election debate. Therefore, this subject deserves a couple of paragraphs in this convoluted flashback.

This year brought a number of achievements on the personal side, as I became a new immigrant and a Green Card holder — a ten-year Green Card, fortunately, which is very different from the temporary one disastrously granted to the “Radical Mom” from San Bernardino. In all honesty, having nothing to hide, I was much more afraid of being “rejected,” or even “repatriated,” than the soulless jihadist, let’s face it. At any rate, I walked a path of opinion from left to right that would have previously been unthinkable, but it came to pass anyway, due to my daily American experience. Or perhaps, as an instinct to survive in a foreign country, I mean, for the love of my Republican husband of ten years, as of December 10 (numerologists, speak now, or forever hold your peace).

Because of this, I began to see things from another point-of-view, and to feel more comfortable with the conservative way. I have opted, therefore, to root for the Republicans in the upcoming elections, without having managed to choose this or that candidate yet, because, between you and me, it seems the political class has gone awry in the whole world, not just in Brazil. In this week’s debate, for example, Jeb Bush, my initial favorite months ago, stumbled so hard over his own words and ideas that I thought he was going to give up his candidacy right there on the debate podium, out of sheer embarrassment for his own ineptitude.

As for the current favorite, Donald Trump, I still cannot see him as President of the United States, but I recognize his important role in bringing up a few issues that have been choking us for a long time, lumped in our throats by the dictatorship of the “PC” — not “personal computer” as it might seem, but “politically correct,” a new acronym I have just learned. Anyway, funny hair aside — something the candidate, in fact, makes a point of leaving untouched —, comparing him to Hitler is a tremendously offensive trap in which several dear liberal commentators have fallen. And I don’t mean offensive to the candidate, who doesn’t give a damn, or to his supporters, who are still opting for him no matter what, as shown by his rise in the polls, but offensive to the American psyche.

How could the generous, merciful American people, common good advocators to say the least, be considering electing a Nazi? It is a scandal, and an injustice of sorts. Not to mention that I can’t find a single point of contact between the United States of today and the Germany of the Weimar Republic that preceded the rise (and the subsequent fall, thankfully) of the Third Reich.

These people cannot be serious. Firstly, although ten out of ten candidates and commentators refer to the economy as “disastrous,” I, as a Brazilian, think it’s frankly auspicious, let’s face it. And the Fed is there to confirm it. I don’t see anyone standing in line to receive ration coupons, nor is anyone pushing a wheelbarrow full of dollars eroded by inflation in order to buy one loaf of bread. The Muslims at the center of the discussion — I’m not risking a commentary on whether this is justifiable or not —, are not being “discriminated” against based on their race or religion, but because of a real fear we all have from some members of their community — extremists who kill lots of people without any hesitation. Muslim Americans have not had their goods confiscated, nor are they being treated like animals or at risk of being killed and then incinerated simply due to their faith or ethnicity. This, my friends, would never happen in the United States, which proudly affirms its fidelity to the Constitution, whatever it takes.

Okay. I’m going to stop here. One of my potential New Year’s resolutions might be to get less upset about what I hear or read, and to keep my distance from the extreme political polarization that has taken over, no matter where we are in the world. Furthermore, I promise to do my best in order to put aside my low self-esteem, which poisons this chronicler due to regular doubts and inconclusive thoughts I let out in my work. I wish I had the self-assurance some colleagues show when taking as certainties stuff they have only heard, without any real knowledge of the facts. And imagine, they don’t even position themselves as “chroniclers” like I do — a relaxed and confessedly biased genre of writers who are ironic, exaggerated, always highlighting their own personal views about everything. Not at all. These other writers pose as owners of the one and only truth.

As for the beloved Brazil I left behind… How sad! Amidst the discouragement and depression that affected us all, due to misfortunes in the economy and politics (thank God there’s no fear of terrorism), we are closing the year with the long-awaited news that our credit rating has been downgraded to the “speculative” level. In other words, dear friends, we have lost, thanks to this gang now in office, the costly and well-deserved achievements of the past 20 years, during which we almost forgot our eternal label as a “futureless country” immersed in “third-worldism.” Pure illusion. For our generation, both of entrepreneurs and citizens, this is a condemnation with no hope of redemption: Even if we live up to a biblical 120 years, we will not live to see the country recover. That’s right, we have lost a whole lifetime, trying to keep our necks away from the stranglehold, safe from the persistent failure of our initiatives. Enough.

And speaking of failure, depression, and terror altogether, I need to finish this retrospective with a tribute, a deeply sad account that unfortunately set the final tone in this dreary journey. One of our closest collaborators, a dedicated, competent professional, a crucial person for our operations in Brazil, now that we live so far away, took his life last week. Unbelievable… The morning of the exact day on which the tragedy took place, we even exchanged emails! How is that possible? How could a man who works all day solving problems, go home that night and kill himself, leaving a wife and child?

Despite all my talking about bipolar disorder and a chronic lack of happiness, always in the mocking tone of chroniclers, I have to say that despite all the hardship, the possibility of personally ending it all never crossed my mind. And even if it had…

“I would never allow it!” Alan stated, speculating that with the recent wave of bad news, such reactions would become common in Brazil, as occurred, for example, during the 1929 crisis.

I responded by saying that Brazilians are not prone to this kind of extreme action, since they tend to focus on the humorous side of the worst situations, an emotionally healthy people, I think.

Alan, who keeps quiet on some parts of his personal history, once worked with the treatment of terribly troubled people. He proceeded to tell me, quite touched, that in serious situations like this a mere friendly touch on a person’s shoulder can change the course of events, along with verbalized love and honest interest: “Are you okay?”

Who knows what lies beneath the human mind? The Tzadik does.

So see you in January, folks, and have a good one!

About the Author
Noga Sklar was born in Tiberias, Israel, in 1952. She grew up in Belo Horizonte and lived for 30 years in Rio de Janeiro, a city she left behind to take refuge in a paradise among the mountains of Petropolis. Noga met her American husband Alan Sklar in 2004, through the American Jewish dating site JDate. This meeting gave new impetus to her life and literary career, inspiring her first novel, “No degrees of separation” (to be published in English in 2016. She now lives in Greenville, SC, US, where she moved with her husband in October 2014.
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