Paper Globe

When the handsome, charismatic character entered the Chamber, the world stopped to watch him. With his wide, captivating smile, teeth very white, kisses and handshakes, an irresistible vibration emanated from the nation’s highest dignitary — in his own eyes, the highest dignitary of all nations.

Soon the reverential silence was broken by a whirlwind of applause, an enthusiastic standing ovation.

“Thank you! Thank you very much! Please have a seat!”

The show was about to begin. Sitting in the audience, captured by the camera time and again, some of the candidates running for the next superstar position watched attentively, trying to memorize the secret behavior code behind the most perfect incarnation, the unforgettable icon of our most idealistic inclinations. What a pleasure! What a thrill!

What followed was one of the most exciting speeches in the whole political season. Standing on the podium, with steady gestures and sparkling, watery eyes, the leading actor carefully delivered his wise words in the correct tone — sometimes smooth, other times a little sharper, always effective.

One by one, his countless achievements were listed. And, as expected, a mea culpa allowed us to identify ourselves with the inevitable prospect of some setback, of possible failure: “To err is human.” And life goes on.

To raise the mood, an uplifting goal was offered:

“Let’s make America the country that cures cancer once and for all.”

Oba! He nailed it!

His final testimony left nothing to be desired, if we consider a country that has been lacking not only its former confidence in its own institutions, but also in its institutional leaders:

“The United States of America is the most powerful nation on Earth. Period. The State of our Union is strong.”


The problem is, my friends, this is all theater. And I’m not alone in this understanding; even the beloved, ex-unconditionally-admired liberal columnists are pointing it out. Moreover, such falsehood could be detected throughout the patriotic discourse in the bored expression of disbelief consistently displayed by the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan. The strong, booming country that Obama described simply doesn’t exist. According to the Gallup polls, 79% of Americans are “dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States,” and President Obama’s “playing to the crowd” will not change this.

Sensibly, Obama chose not to emphasize his war on gun ownership in his last State of the Union appearance, while carefully avoiding other equally thorny subjects. But the eager audience was not spared from an apocalyptic remark or two:

“2014 was the warmest year on record…  until 2015 turned out even hotter.”

I must apologize, but as one of those “pretty lonely” people out there who still want to “dispute the science around climate change,” as Obama pointed out — the “ignorant and stupid” part he left unsaid — I’m going to need a sidebar here.

I’ve been upset by this issue ever since the December temperatures here in our neck of the woods turned out to be hotter than average, though I’m not exactly an authority on what is the “average” in this place where I’ve lived for a little over than a year. But, yes, I agree: It was hot. Then I heard the anointed UN “climate ambassador,” Leonardo DiCaprio, giving a speech in Paris to set the tone of the international talks aimed at “saving humans from themselves,” if you know what I mean. It has been warm lately, okay, but the truth was, the year wasn’t even over… How was it possible to already classify it with such certainty as “the hottest one”?

Alan had reassured me this was not the case, but, as you know, I don’t trust anyone, much less him. So I decided to check it out myself, to search for these “decisive data” DiCaprio seemed so sure of, along with “98% of the scientific community,” and so on and so forth.

Okay. The available data was so dubious and convoluted that I doubted a little that any layperson would understand them. Besides, being a carioca by choice, someone who lived in tropical Rio de Janeiro for most of her life, I shouldn’t be so startled by an island of warmth in the midst of (in)clement weather. After all, how many “Indian summers” have I been through? Moreover, with the (second) strongest El Niño on record?

At any rate, there he was, the glorious DiCaprio, made even more glorious this week by his Golden Globe — a “Paper” Globe, as far as I’m concerned. Doesn’t it sound suspicious that, instead of naming a prestigious scientist for the role of UN ambassador, they would opt for a Hollywood celebrity?

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, an actor is “someone who ​pretends to be someone ​else.” Or, to be more poetic, as required by the situation, “a pretender / who pretends so completely / that he even pretends it is pain / the pain that he really feels,” as beautifully stated by the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa. Come on. Wait a minute.

As I write this chronicle, the much-anticipated “Freeze Warning” sign demanding that we leave the faucets dripping to avoid freezing the water in the pipes, the same one that I loathed so much last year, has finally appeared in the dry garden outside our apartment. It is 45 degrees, a sunny day, cold as hell. It’s going to snow on Sunday. Some days will be warmer, others colder than the historical average.

End of the sidebar.

Meanwhile, conservative networks were all excited discussing another celebrity’s stimulating role — stimulating trouble, I would say: Sean Penn’s interview with “El Chapo,” acting as a (bad) journalist in the Rolling Stone scandal. Spare me.

The political festival was not yet over. A significant share of the electorate could at least feel elated by the discreet, rational and well-balanced response to the State of the Union delivered by our also discreet Governor Nikki Haley. I was proud.

A descendant of legal immigrants, Nikki was the exact image of a focused, reliable official. Alan “broke into his happy dance” pointing at me, et voilà, I felt valued. I told him I was sorry that our Governor wasn’t mature enough to run for President this time, in which case we’d have a reasonable option — the opposite of our present, confining situation. Let’s face it, although a new victory by the Democrats is downright unthinkable, the Republican candidates seem to be in a competition to show who’s the most irresponsible.

I’m feeling lost here, my friends. We’re even doing the math to see what would happen in case we went back to Brazil, where, with the dollar at four reals and the devil at large, we would do quite well, I mean, if… Never mind. I’m just kidding. Back there in Brazil, when ex-president Lula was no more than a future threat, we used to say that, in case he was elected, “the last person to leave the airport should please turn out the lights.” Ah, that’s right, this was well before Lula, going as far back as the military dictatorship. At any rate, just replace “Lula” with “Hillary” and we’re in deep trouble anyway. As we all know, failure is “slow but sure.”

In an email, one dear friend described herself as shocked by my strong, wavering position against Obama and, by extension, against the Democratic Party. The party that we, as intellectuals, as guides of the herd, have a moral obligation to support.

There’s nothing I can do. All I can say is that people who live abroad don’t know the half of it. Living in this country, we are exposed to an overdose of information, with TV channels of various orientations, hundreds of shows to choose from, according to one’s line of thinking, and even the C-Span channels, which are really unbiased.

I can only regret that, wherever we are, the grass always remains greener on the other side of the fence, with no exception. As for my desolate Brazilian friend, who answered my message with a terse “thank you for your explanation,” all I could tell her was I would probably end up supporting “The Donald,” which would be the coup de grâce to our friendship. And for that I was sorry!

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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