Op-Ed: Insurrection in our times

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By: Ethan M. Felder

Two days following the two-year anniversary of Jan. 6, we witnessed eerily similar scenes transpire in Brazil.

Insurrectionists invaded the Senate, Supreme Court and other democratic institutions of state.

The elected president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (“Lula”) was sworn into office on Jan. 1 following a very close election that former President Jair Bolsonaro did not accept as legitimate. 

What do we make of this? 

I visited Brazil during the interregnum. In Brasilia, the capital, I observed enhanced federal police presence following a violent demonstration against Lula’s election. 

I visited the electoral court that had certified Lula’s election just days earlier – now ransacked.

I also visited the ministry charged with the administration of the national election.

In Brazil, voting is mandatory. Every voter is given an identification number and inputs a pre-assigned number denoting the candidate of their choice into an electronic machine.

This machinery allowed the results to be disseminated to the world within two hours.  

It wasn’t always this way. Brazil’s history is one of transitions toward and away from democracy.

Following decades of military dictatorship, Brazil democratized in 1988 – adopting its sixth Constitution in its history.

Democracy is foundationally entwined with American identity, less so in Brazil.  

I interviewed those protesting the election. It was striking to hear them fondly reminisce about the days of dictatorship when they felt life was easier and better.

The protestors called for the military to intervene with the goal of restoring a military dictatorship.

Their deep hostility toward judges, feminists, progressives, the unemployed and the truth encapsulated the undercurrent of illiberalism coursing throughout the world.

The same lies many Americans continue to believe about the 2020 presidential election were aired on the streets of Brazil. Allegations of voter fraud and vote tabulation irregularities were rejected by a delegation of election observers representing 40 countries, including the U.S. 

Scenes of democratic institutions and historical artifacts ransacked should deeply disturb us all.

As of this writing the insurrection has failed. The military and institutions of democracy have held firm in protecting the will of the Brazilian people.

But complacency in the face of insurrection is deeply irresponsible. People and movements around the world continue to draw inspiration from what occurred in Washington on Jan. 6. – a day Donald Trump romanticized as one that should be remembered forever.

We cannot ignore the lies and extremist movements that are shaking the foundations of democratic societies both here and around the world.   

Ethan Felder is a community leader and Candidate for the New York City Council in Forest Hills.

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