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ZZZ-RETIRED In Times of Hatred and War by Tereza Halliday

Published in Diário de Pernambuco, Recife, Brazil, Oct. 18th, 2001, p. A-3. Translated from the Portuguese by the author. Permission granted by the author for use on the web, 2002.

After September 11th, many were compelled to predict what kind of world is left for us from now on. The media as well as private conversations are full of comments because the stun and horror go on. Even Fidel Castro spoke about the tragedy by defining it as "a huge mistake, a gigantic injustice, an enormous crime". It is only human to speculate and express opinions about things that frighten and offend.

[However], I chose to stick to Cecília Meireles' verses: [1] "Get rid of the sad vanity of speaking. Think, completely silent". While writing about ordinary aspects of our continual little lives, I silently think of the seven thousand disappeared (including Brazilians), with crushed bones and burned flesh in the ruins of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon; the abused by the hysteria of vengeance, for being or looking like Arabs; the Afhgan, Palestine and Israeli victims and all the destroyed by terrorism anywhere we point a finger on the world map. I think of those who loved them and now suffer from the chronic pain of their aching absence.[2] I cannot be proud of belonging to this planet, in spite of Gandhi, the Physicians without Borders and Mother Teresa.

I leave the sickly consequences of September 11th to [be commented] by political scientists, sociologists, professional philosophers and guessers. I know how to reason critically about the American Empire, its malign policies, its quixotism and arrogance. But it is the kingdom of feelings that dictates my bonds with the United States. There I lived ten of the best years in my life. There I went to graduate school, rode a bike safely, built a solid academic background, planted tulips, shoveled snow, benefited from the high quality of public radio and TV. There I witnessed wretchedness and greatness, the tacky and the sublime. There I was respected as a person regardless of family connections, nationality and income. Oh, yes, in the land of money and abominable conspicuous consumption, I have lived what is priceless.

There my son was born, in a cold sunny afternoon, with colorful Autumn leaves falling all around. There I keep friends who continue to nourish me with their thoughtfulness, generosity and affection. Among them, former professors and graduate school classmates, friends from my adolescent years [in Brazil], an ex-boss, a confidante and even a comadre[3]. Each and everyone of them widens my spirit and reinforces my faith in friendship without vested interests. To certain readers they have an original sin, a birth defect: they are Americans. To whom my late Polish-American friend Teresa Wilk would reply with a playful smile: "Nobody is perfetc". [sic]

I think of these friends—native and naturalized Americans—with empathy and tenderness. After September 11th, they are scared, angry, disheartened. They have lost their innocence and security. I have lost mine a long time ago, as both a Latin American and a Brazilian. They are not perfect but they are among the best specimens of the human species and I am blessed with their presence in my territory of affections. That's why, in times of hatred and war, I declare love and peace to them.


  1. Cecília Meireles (1901-1964) is the outstanding Brazilian female poet of the 20th century. A sort of Emily Dickson of the Portuguese Language.
  2. In the original:"the chronic pain of saudade". This term alone refers to a feeling that includes painfully missing someone or someplace, cherished good memories and a melancholic longing for seeing that person or place again.
  3. The term comadre is used to define the bonds or relationship between a child's godmother and his/her mother.

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