There was footage of this greasy-haired, inarticulate man. He was in his garden, and shouting into his phone: a video call being relayed to a huge rally of supporters, in the city. I noticed he spoke as if already a victor – as if beyond reproof. He said nothing innovative. He shouted about loving his country above all others, he invoked God, and chose words that were inflammatory and aggressive. We’re the best, we’ll get what we deserve. Those who don’t agree can leave. Our opponents will rot in jail. There will be a cleansing never seen before.
He didn’t use the word ‘country’ or ‘nation’, but ‘pátria’ – like homeland, or literally, fatherland. There was once another angry, greasy-haired, unattractive little man full of prejudice and hate, who shouted a lot about fatherland, I believe. (I suppose there have been many.)
Let’s say homeland, though, to keep that association at bay. Does it help any? You’d imagine that talk of homeland would hold love and affection; an attachment to place and identity, a sense of belonging. In his speech though, there was no love; only aggression, accusation, and ego. The ‘pátria’ he talked of was intended for a particular type of person, for the type acceptable to him. The rest would be discarded.
It was suddenly chilling, and immeasurably sad. That vibrant, diverse and welcoming place; that was my home, for a time. Its people broadened my life, its language enriched my voice.
With this man, it was teetering on an edge. We were watching it losing its way.