Apparently this is the Best World Cup Ever. Van Persie’s header, upsets, avalanche wins. On my part, updates have not been frequent, and my work has been stuttering, due to an episode of back pain that left me alternately prostrate and hobbling, walking either like Quasimodo or like Christina Hendricks on Mad Men — hunched or mincing — and watching plenty of the matches from a prone position. Now that I’m more or less recovered, I find myself paralyzed in another sense.

Brazil has taught me to love football. This, while being wonderfully enriching for my life in many respects, means that it is very difficult to simply ignore the Copa that #tátendo on my TV, in the bars, and in the stadiums around me. I would love to disdain this Cup, but I can’t. But neither can I love it.

The bonds of nationalism have never been less appealing. I can’t disassociate the chants of “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” from the floor of the RNC, and the flag-draped bros on the beach remind me of nothing less than the flurry of patriotism after September 11th, and then the war. It’s almost Pavlovian: a sea of stars and stripes fills me with dread.

And what of Brazil? This is where the anguish comes in. Apparently it would be a “sociological error” not to root for Brazil, to let my political objections to the event, the evictions, the violence that made me fear for my friends’ lives and Brazil’s democracy, mingle with the nation’s passion for the sport and for its team. I can recognize this, but I can’t bring myself to feel it. I love my club’s shield; when I see fans wrapped in the green-and-yellow, I think of the protesters who this did not protect.

And while I discovered football here, what brought me to Brazil in the first place was something else entirely. Tied in with my political objections is the raw indignation when the city’s popular culture is packaged and Disneyfied in the merchandising wave of the megaevents, and the fear that the turn-of-the-century port neighborhoods, silent witnesses to the time I fell in love with, will be summarily knocked down. These are more selfish protest cries, but they are mine. I would love to love the Seleção and the Cup at this moment, in this place. Instead I am sitting here with the lonely star on my breast, feeling similarly.


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