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My view: Brazilian families need to find more than protests and futbol

By Chris Ayres

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, July 6 2014 12:00 a.m. MDT

A boy walks with a representation of a Brazilian national flag through the Santa Luzia favela, ahead of fellow residents in a protest against the money spent on preparations for the upcoming World Cup, in Brasilia, Brazil, Friday, May 30, 2014.

Eraldo Peres, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

In my lifetime, I've seen the family decline from the chief stabilizing influence in Brazilian society to a sad mockery of its former glory. This travesty must end if Brazil is ever to become the powerhouse that leads South America into the future.

Yes, we wanted the World Cup and the Olympics, but we needed to improve the quality of life for all Brazilians — not just create a tempting facade for tourists. We can't go on with 80 million people depending on food stamps for survival.

As a little girl, I lived under Brazil's military government — a quiet, respectful descendant of Italian immigrants who had endured the previous dictatorship. When the government opened Brazil to democracy during my teen years, I participated in the Diretas Já movement, helping to break free of decades of repression with the implementation of free elections. To see my elders voting for the first time — and, a few years later, voting myself — was a grand victory, a watershed event in my life. As an adult, joining the Caras Pintadas movement to impeach a corrupt president was another milestone in the history of Brazil — and of myself.

Power of choice and apprenticeship to real freedom

Monumental changes have rolled through Brazil during our apprenticeship to democracy — and they haven't always been for the better. We've swung from military leadership to democracy to anarchy to what's basically socialism. Slums have sprouted all over, like weeds in a forgotten garden. Middle-class families are struggling to survive, suffering every step of the way. Commerce has flowered like never before, but overspending has taken a toll on the Brazilian family.

Once, strong families were the basis of society, respect was the basis of family relationships and education was the passport to a better life. But we've lost our way. Today, corruption riddles the government and police. Even basic city services apply what we call "Gerson's Law,” taking advantage of everybody in every way possible.

We Brazilians are known for our "Jeitinho Brasileiro," or "Brazilian Way" — a lifestyle that helps us overcome challenges by making do with what we have, celebrating everything and everywhere. But once we opened ourselves to democracy, families suffered. We've experienced the objectification of women, in conjunction with a misguided feminist movement that views pornography as normal. Irresponsible parenting, high personal debt and relentless destruction of moral, religious and family values have become national pastimes.

After decades of corruption, biased media, off-the-scale violence, absurd taxes, staggering poverty, abysmal health care and education, rampant drug trafficking and other atrocities, the simple act of bringing home the daily bread has become a challenge.

We're learning to live with democracy without knowing what freedom really means. The cancer of corruption has consumed the dignity of the entire nation.

We need more than just food

We Brazilians enjoy paradisiacal landscapes and the good humor required to sustain life itself. Our people are loving and caring. Where we see misery, we also see charity, open hearts and big smiles. Our culture is diverse and tolerant, and I have never heard of or experienced true discrimination anywhere in Brazil. "Ó Pátria Amada!" — "Oh, beloved homeland!" — we sing in our national anthem, and we mean it.

It breaks our hearts to see our families, the souls of our paradise, invaded and destroyed.

During the recent World Cup preparations, the giant awoke. Unfortunately, many of the resulting protests turned violent and destructive. Worse, the government reacted with minimal measures that won't last long enough for the changes we seek.

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