Six people died because of heavy rains that ravaged Rio two days ago. Yesterday, just before dawn, ten youths between the ages of fourteen and sixteen were burned alive in a fire at the Flamengo training center. Shortly after, thirteen armed criminals were killed by the police in a violent favela. What, besides the Angel of Death hovering in the skies, is common among all three cases? According to one of the city’s largest newspapers and, of course, to a bunch of idiots across social networks, the answer is obvious: EVERYONE is a poor innocent victim.
You leave your house to work and hop on a bus. You’re doing the night shift today. But because you worked on your house reform with your father during the day, you are already very tired. While the music plays softly on your headphone, you allow yourself to be carried by sleep and by the cozy swing of the car. You can not distinguish reality from nightmare, truth from irony, air from earth, life from death when tons of mud and rubble gush out of your window, press your shoulders in and down as if you would begin to pray, make your body squirm as if turning into a ball, sink your head between your knees, and, during the few seconds that it takes for you to be crushed, make you die.
You’re angry because you had to stop making your family’s dinner as the water came in through the broken kitchen window. You’ve been complaining to your husband for a long time, but you do not insist too much because you know he’s out of money. He assures you he’ll fix it as soon as he can, and you believe him. He’s on the couch in the living room, dying of fatigue after a full day at work, and you want to feed him. You call out for your son to help you with the window, because you want to try to at least fry some little sausages for your husband. If you had had more time, you would have been grateful for all those harsh but happy years that you lived together, and also for none of the other alternative deaths having chosen you. You could have died slowly, suffocating while buried under the rubble, or drowned as you were dragged by the torrential waters, desperate not to swallow it, trying in vain to cry out for help. But, thank goodness, the chunk of concrete from the wall struck your head like a missile and you blotted out instantly. It’s good that you could not see your son dying and groaning by your side. Better still was not to have seen your husband, who, kneeling in astonishment beside the firemen, wept copiously as they rescued their contorted bodies, praying to absent gods in the mud.
You’re still a kid, but when you were even younger you already dreamed of playing ball. You admired your idols on TV, watched the misery all around you while your family struggled to earn a starving wage, and imagined yourself there in the middle of the grass, feeling amazed at the howling crowd yelling your name over and over again. You train non-stop, even while studying and helping your parents at home, because you do not see yourself as anything else than this: You will be a soccer player. Although you live in the Northeast of Brazil, what you really want is to play in Rio. You could not imagine the truth, so you get nervous when your coach calls you aside with a grave expression. You think you did something wrong, but soon he stops containing himself and tells you the news amidst smiles: You were selected to train in Flamengo. Your brain still does not register when your heart already makes you cry. Your coach hugs you tight, but all you can think is to go home to tell your parents. You want to say “thank you” a million times, and you cry even more just by imagining the look of pride on your mother’s face, she who has never doubted you. But you would have abdicated that future immediately, and would have contented yourself happily with menial work for the rest of your life, carrying stones back and forth if need be, if you could just have caught a glimpse of your mother’s face yesterday when she got to know about what had happened. For the rest of her life, her face will disfigure into a mask of dread and sorrow when she imagines what it was like when you woke up in Hell, seeing your friends screaming in despair as you realized that you could not breathe yourself, and that you could do nothing but wait for those walls of fire to hem you in and consume your body in flames and pain. In one last brief moment of lucidity, when your nerves were already so burned that not even pain could be transmitted, but you were still not quite dead, in that momentary fraction of calm like in the eye of a hurricane, you wondered what you did to deserve this. Tears would have run down from your eyes if they were no longer dry by the flames.
But the journalist who is in mourning for “ALL the lives lost in Rio”; his other co-workers who have spent their lives referring to murderous armed criminals as “suspects” or “people”; the populares who express their regret for the death of these “innocents” and “workers” armed with rifles who did nothing but rest after a productive quartering session; the “experts” who love these opportunities to sit on the fence and thus to please Greeks and Trojans alike and continue their ascendancy through the echelons of society; those activists and pseudo-politicians who promptly cry out for justice for all; certain police deputy chiefs who do not even have the courage to be outlaws and pick up guns, but instead satisfy themselves by broadcasting stupid sayings on the Web; or simply those who are in positions where they can be heard, but who keep quiet so as not to compromise themselves; in short, all those who evade reality by masking it with their personal vendettas, confusing life and death, innocence and guilt, with their petty and misguided political goals, all of them think YOU worker crushed inside a bus, YOU housewife buried with your son in the kitchen, YOU young dreamer calcined when you thought you were in paradise with friends, YOU good person who grinds every day to support your family and raise decent children, YOU are EXACTLY the same as any vagabundo drug dealer who degrades the city and contributes to the absurdity and cultural inversion in which we live.
Honestly, I do not know what to say to the families of these innocent men, women and children who died tragically. Nor do I know what to say to the families of these dead criminals. All these families have lost their loved ones. But I do know what to say to those who can no longer distinguish good people from criminals:
Pray that the combatants will not altogether tire of doing their job, because if that happens, this city will sink in mud and blood, and you weak, coward and dirty parasites will be the first to cry out screaming for help.
Listening to your cries there will be only those who you so much protect, laughing while they pile tires to have fun at your expense — while you burn.