By EDITORIAL BOARD
As most of the country mourned the tragic loss of life in Pittsburgh to yet more gun violence, with the added backdrop of nationalist and anti-Semitic hate, most of us struggled with a mix of emotions ranging from sadness to fear and anger.
Add to this the mailing of bombs or bomb-making elements to several high-profile Democratic officials and media organizations, and you have wall-to-wall coverage of a divided country that has allowed unstable people from the fringes of society back into the mainstream. It is a tough new reality — and a reality that is hard for us to disassociate from the rhetoric coming out of the Trump White House, and echoed by Fox News and other unabashedly pro-Trump media sources. (It is not necessarily always pro-Trump; I think far-right and conservative fit the bill.)
While the divisive rhetoric and increased political violence is clearly a concern here at home, it is not occurring in a vacuum. We are seeing rising hate throughout the world, most recently in Brazil.
This past weekend, the South American nation elected a far-right conservative known for his divisive, bigoted and misogynistic stances and inflammatory statements.
The bombastic Jair Bolsonaro shares many traits with Donald Trump — and Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, as well as other conservative strongmen and parties rising in popularity. As Barack Obama famously stated, elections have consequences. And oh boy have the recent elections of Trump, Duterte and now Bolsonaro begun to bear their bad fruits.
It may be easy to sit back and say that there are enough problems here at home; why should we care about Brazil? For one, Bolsonaro has called for the killing of gay people: He once said he’d rather his son die in a car accident than be gay. This type of rhetoric is sure to trigger a mass exodus of members of the LGBTQ community in Brazil, with their preferred destination for asylum likely to be the United States — if our country will let them in. With Trump in the White House, that’s no sure thing.
If the LGBTQ issues don’t move you, how about climate change? Brazil is home to one of the largest and most important nature preserves in the world: the Amazon jungle. Bolsonaro wants to stop protecting the indigenous tribes in the jungle, and instead sell off the land to corporations to exploit its resources. The scientific community is concerned that this could exacerbate global warming — so if you live in a coastal area of Queens, this election should scare you.
As the world’s borough, Queens knows better than most how interconnected our world is. It is hardly by coincidence that the two largest and most powerful nations in the Western Hemisphere are now led by right-wing populists with penchants for incendiary rhetoric. Politics across the world seem to be devolving ever faster, but it is up to the citizens of democracy to stop the rot.
Last week’s election in Brazil should be a stark reminder of the importance of next Tuesday, Nov. 6, here in Queens and across the country.