Brasilmagic\’s Weblog

Venting to the World

The Sean Goldman case

This is a very sad story. Dateline made a story on it, showing the father in a favorable light. Here is a summarized version of the story:

1) Male model meets nice girl from a well to do family from Brazil during his modeling stint in Italy;

2) They get married and have a son; former male model settles down in New Jersey and becomes a loving father and husband;

3) Husband thinks everything is all right. In-laws from Brazil come to visit and wife and son go back with them for a 2 week vacation. Husband takes family to airport and plans to join them later;

4) A few days later, he receives a phone call that shocks him. His wife is saying she is saying in Brazil for good and wants full custody of the young son. She also tells him to not even try to prosecute her criminally or else;

5) Wife gets a divorce in Brazil and gets remarried. Later, she dies. Father tries to get son back and the grandparents and the stepfather, protected by the slow and inneficiant Brazilian judicial system, stall the possibility of father and son being reunited.

5) David Goldman, the father, has been in a 4 year battle with Brazilian authorites to recover his son. 

This is a sad and unfair story.  My opinion, as a Brazilian and as a mother, is that Sean should be returned to his rightful father as soon as possible! He will adapt well to his new life, will have his father’s attention and love and he can have visitation with his grandparents (say summer vacation).

My analysis of what might have caused Bruna to do what she did:

Young woman from wealthy Brazilian upper middle class family, raised with maids and privilege, goes to Italy to study. Falls in love with handsome American male model. They come to America and she soons realizes that the handsome male model is just a regular guy. The glamour and glitz are gone. She lives in the suburbs, feels possibly isolated and homesick. She has to take care of her son and do housework, whereas in Brazil she could have maids. She misses the human warmth and warm climate of festive Rio. She decides on impulse, or maybe planned with her parents, to go back to Brazil.   She possibly felt disillusioned by her marriage and no longer wanted to be married to David, so instead of urging him to move back to Brazil with her, get a civilized divorce with visitation and vacations, she decides to run. Apparently she met the second husband during her trip there and fell in love very quickly, or maybe he had even been a former boyfriend. Since he was from an influential family in Brazil, her parents might have approved the relationship. For Bruna,  the new guy represented a great opportunity to live the good life, since he was a successful lawyer from a well to do family himself.

This decision was the worse possible. If she was afraid of losing her son (she might have heard stories of American citizens being granted custody of children when a foreign parent decides to move back to their original country), why did she decide to do something so cruel to her husband and to her son? Why did she decide to do something illegal? Why didn’t she try to get a divorce and settle on a visitation pact with the father? Was she wrongly influenced by her parents? Was she ignorant of the law? Was she just plain selfish or clinically depressed? The more I learn about Bruna, the more I see a selfish woman who had no empathy or respect for the man who clearly was a good father and loved his son.

I hope this case resolves soon, and Sean goes back to his father. After all, Sean was born here, so he is an American citizen first.

President Lula, you’ve got to do something about this! This is not acceptable and a shame for us Brazilian internationally! I also hope Obama tells Lula very firmly to stop Bruna’s family from being so dishonest!

See here for details and videos:

http://www.bringseanhome.org/dateline.html

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February 28, 2009 Posted by | Being a mother, World Events/News | 17 Comments

Churches or Businesses?

Churches of all denominations across America like to advertise on street signs using catchy phrases. “You are God’s stimilus plan”, “You are the star in God’s movie”, “God receives knee mail” and so on. It makes me wonder: are these temples of god or just businesses advertising their products?

If god is great and the churches are “sacred” ground, why would these churches need to attract followers, like a car dealership tries to attract customers? Is the answer that more members means more revenue? Aren’t we mixing money with religion here? Aren’t the members going to go anyway if they have religious beliefs? Or because they like this pastor more than that pastor?

Nowhere in the world have churches become businesses as in the USA. It is a social club for the poor, the lonely and the lost. People feel comforted, even if they are praying to no one and getting nothing in return. The ads promise what is impossible and talk superstition. Soon we will see: “20% off sale: come to our church and get a good deal from God.” God can do everything, and he likes some people more than others, right?

February 28, 2009 Posted by | Grievances, Religion | 3 Comments

Pharmaceuticals ads on TV

As a Brazilian living in the US, I can’t get over the constant adverstisement from pharmaceutical companies. Why adverstise prescription drugs? I can understand marketing OTC products since they are consumer based. But running ads about drugs that can only be prescribed by a physician seems to me as morally wrong. After all, only a doctor will know if that drug is right for you. Advertising medicines seems to me as greed. People who are otherwise healthy might want to buy these drugs online. Hypochondriacs may panic after hearing the symptoms of this or that disease. Let the pharmaceutical companies target their audience: the medical field. Not the general public.

February 28, 2009 Posted by | Grievances, Health | Leave a comment

The Era of Simplicity

After all the gloom and doom we have heard now for the past year, I think it’s time for Americans, and all the copycats around the world who like to follow the American culture, to reflect on some points.

I came to this country in 1997, at the height of the Clinton era (right before he crashed because of his indiscretion and bad judgment), when the internet companies were popping up everywhere and there was little unemployment.

The late 90’s and the 00’s were full of enthusiasm, even though much of this American dream was shattered when the loonie religious extremists decided to kill innocent people in a disaster movie style.

Consumerism was at its maximum. Fourteen year olds wanted designer bags and sunglasses to feel “in”. Parents indulged. Women went on shopping spree after shopping spree, and their closets were full of items they did not really need. Some women would find something they had bought and had never worn, still with the label on, inside their cramped closets. BMWs and other luxury cars dominated the urban scene in higher income metropolitan areas. Hair and nail salons were crowded. People wanted a bigger house, and MacMansions were popping up at every American suburb. Everyone just HAD to have the latest cell phone or the latest lap top, and gadget lovers (I am guilty of that too) couldn’t get enough of Apple.

Meanwhile, the American middle class forgot one basic tenant of adult responsability: to save money. People spent it all. I could not believe an article I read on the Washington Post in the late 90’s: a couple who made more than 100k a year together, 2 kids, could not make ends meet. For me, that was a sign they were living above their heads. Saving money means you are growing. Saving money means you will have protection if you are hit by illness or unemployment. Saving money means you can pursue some bigger dreams, your dream vacation, that boat or that degree. Women in particular, with the pressure to look like a Hollywood fashionista, spend a lot more than they should. Many young women have huge credit card debts and are unable to have financial security.

With the American and now worldwide economic crisis (other nations are paying for our own excesses!), we should try to change our focus as a nation. We should try to save, not only spend. We should get rid of major credit card debts and excessive spending. We need to become less materialistic. We do not need 8 pairs of jeans, we do not need 200 dollar jeans, we do not need 30 diferent styles of bags, and we do not need to change our gadget every 12 months.

I often wonder if Americans shop because there is litle else to do. Extended families do not live near each other. Cultural events are expensive. Winter months are grey and depressing. Travel is expensive. So what do you do in a boring Saturday afternoon? You go shop hopping! You go to the outlets “just in case” you find a really good deal. And you come back with 300 dollars worth of cheap chothes or clothes you don’t really need. You buy 5 tops because they were cheap.

For mothers and daughters, shopping is bonding time, since they don’t know what else they can do together. The malls become congregation spots, since the urban sprawl has given us very few places to congregate. Teens meet at the mall. They often consume once inside. And women fall prey to the “it’s so pretty, I just have to have it”, falling deeper into debt.

Barack Obama wants to restore consumer confidence. He wants Americans to have their jobs and feel safe to spend again. I say ok, go ahead, but maybe we should tone it down. Maybe we should think twice every time we buy something we want: is it really important? Essential? Can I use the public library instead? Can I blow dry my own hair? Can I go to that party with the same dress I wore last summer? Will I really use all the options in that new shiny cell phone they are trying to push on us? How about saving 500 dollars a month? How about trying to save a percentage of your paycheck and saying no to spending more than you allow yourself?

We don’t have to stop spending, we need to spend more responsibly and remember to SAVE. Americans forgot about that. They are mortgaged up to their ears. The era of rap music showing blinged golddiggers going after the guy with the Bentley is over. Maybe women will start looking for a guy who they are really attracted to, who treats them well, instead of the one with the Mercedes Benz. A new era of simplicity and less frivolous lifestyles, mirrored in our First Family, could be the answer for the 10’s-the new decade which will soon begin.

February 25, 2009 Posted by | Economy, Society | 4 Comments

Splenda Detox

I have a very sweet tooth. One reason might be biological, that is, the taste buds on my tongue may be more sensitive to the sweet taste (like babies). The second reason might be having grown up in Brazil, where sweets are made with a huge amount of sugar. Sweets are really sweet, and maybe one’s taste buds get used to that.

Many people erroneously think Brazilian food is spicy and hot like Mexican food, and are surprised to hear it is not. Apart from some dishes from the state of Bahia, our food does not use many spices except for some salt and pepper. Where we do exaggerate however, is in the sweetness of our deserts. Even our deserts made of cooked fruits (tropical fruit preserves and jellies) are laden with sugar.  Brazil has a lot of sugar cane (which we even get ethanol fuel from) and sugar is cheap and plentiful since colonial days. That may be the culprit to why we Brazilians like the sweet taste so much.

Which brings me to the problem I have now: I discovered Splenda a few years ago and use nothing else. It tastes like sugar, apparently without the calories, which makes it highly attractive for a sugar nut like myself. If I drink a can of coke, I don’t want to ingest 100 calories, 0 calories seems a lot smarter. However, I haev suspicions about chemical sweeteners and the research that is done about their effects on our bodies. Can they be trusted in high doses?

My level of Spenda consumption is alarming me: I went from two little packets to sweeten my coffee to now 7, so it tastes really really sweet and satisfying.  I also add it to my unsweetened cereal, making me consume something like 10 to 15 packets a day. I wonder what the real effects are…Consequently, I know I need to go on a Splenda detox. 

The only way to do it is to train my taste buds back to less sweet food and drinks. I already avoid candy and chocolate as much as possible. I avoid real sugar in my diet, period. Now I need to stop using any kind of sweetener for a few days (and suffer through the bitterness of coffee and the lameness of my cereal), then slowly increasing to one packet, 2 packets and maybe 3, but no more. I will let you all know how that went. My sweet tooth is no laughing matter, but I don’t like the weight that comes with real sugar, and I am afraid of too many chemicals in my body.

This article was particularly alarming: scroll down for “Spenda side effects”:

http://www.womentowomen.com/nutritionandweightloss/splenda.aspx

February 20, 2009 Posted by | Difference between cultures, Health | 1 Comment

Fathers kissing and hugging their sons

One thing that caught my attention in my last trip to Brazil, and that I had somehow forgotten, has to do with fathers showing their sons,(manyTEENAGERS) physical affection in public . I am not talking about baby boys, but boys over the age of 7.

You see it a lot. In Brazil, parents usually are very affectionate with their kids, of both genders. That comes naturally, as Brazilians are usually affectionate people.  White America, more especifically amongst those of anglo-saxon and teutonic heritage, is not very confortable with touch, especially in public.

However, I started observing fathers and sons in particular and I noticed that in America, you do not see a lot of physical affection (hugs, kisses) between fathers and sons in any racial group. It seems that it is now ingrained in the American culture and I suspect it has to do with the intense homophobia in this country. I find it beautiful when I see a Mom or Dad hugging their kids.

I have already written in this blog that I can foretell which couples are happy and which are not by their body language and the amount of touch between them. Some do it, some don’t. What I don’t see however are many fathers hugging or kissing their sons, and I think this is a grave mistake. I also suspect this can cause the mysoginism and anger I see in some young Americans lads, and maybe even cause some coldness towards people and also women (just like  child abuse can lead to name calling, wife beating, marriage avoidance and the need for sex as escapism). I am not a psychologist, but the lack of affection may well have some influence in a young man’s future behavior.

If these boys do not have enough coddling, enough touch and enough demonstration of affection, can they develop a hard crust to cover up the sadness?

Any readers who kiss and hug their sons? Please prove me wrong! (I have received some emails from fathers who do hug and kiss their almost grown up sons…thank Zeus)

February 9, 2009 Posted by | Being a mother, Difference between cultures | 12 Comments

Old Glory Women

 

You sometimes see these middle aged to old ladies, in their late 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, in the pharmacy, in the local supermarket, and you look at their weathered, beaten, wrinkled, spotted or saggy face and you can still see the traces of very nice features, what once was probably a very beautiful woman. Some still carry their heads high, some have a lot of expensive gold jewelry, some are wearing an old beaten up coat of high quality (cashemere), some wear their hair still long and in exquisite updos like they did back in the 50’s…I call them the Old Glory women.

These are women who once enjoyed a high quality of life, where money was never a problem-or even talked about. They were usually married to well to do men who either left them for a younger woman when they were entering middle age, screwing them financially in the process and leaving them with no skills, formal education or job experience. Or their husbands died but had little left at the end, because they either lost their fortunes by bad business decisions, illness or the many ways in which a person can go from riches to rags in this life. They live in small pensions and struggle to survive. I suspect  that in their heads they live in the past, reminiscing of the good old times where they were Mrs. Such and such and had a standing in society. Were invited to lavish parties and everyone wanted to be their friend.

You see them often lonely, paying their groceries with dollar bills, while in their spotted hand you see a wonderful piece of jewelry. You see their shoes are cheap, but on their shoulders rests a wonderful mink stole (which the ex-husband was not able to take with him 🙂 from the good old times. I look in these ladies’ spacy eyes and I see a lot of grief, a lot of loneliness and sometimes a crazy gaze, as if the disappointments of life have made them a bit off, a bit insane. I often feel sorry for them, as I can imagine  how hard it must be to lose your lifestyle when you get older.

Some of them are in denial with the passage of time, and  try to wear the same clothes a 20 year old would wear; they wear their hair long with ribbons like a 15 year old, or small bikinis at the beach, or plaster a  lot of make up which makes them look like a clown. I suppose they hang on to the decades where their beauty was so striking, where they had the power to make any man melt in their hands, where the world bowed to their beauty.

The Potomac/Bethesda area in the DC suburbs have many of these old glory women, and I believe New York City as well. Any older area which was once very affluent has these women, as women usually outlive men.

But the  decades to come might have less Old Glory women around. Young women now know they cannot depend on a man and that NO marriage is safe. They know they must have their own means of support in case anything happens. When I hear women from this generation saying they want to get married and be a stay at home mom, I feel like telling them to curb that cozy domestic feeling because life is not  predictable. Husbands die, husbands lose jobs, businesses’ fail and husbands cheat-or leave you for someone else. 

As I have always told my daughters: be able to support yourselves, always. Never depend on anyone. You can and should take a break when your kids are very young, but you should not stop learning and updating your skills so you can come back easily to the job market. After all, the children are both parents’ responsability, and the man can also slow down careeerwise to help raise them until they grow more independant.

Additionally, very beautiful women have to to remember that beauty fades, and that beauty alone will not sustain them through life. They must learn skills, get an education and contribute to society.

Many Hollywood starlets get very depressed and start drinking when they lose the only thing they have: looks. Marylin Monroe killed herself at the age of 36, which in those days was approaching retirement in Hollywood. If a beautiful woman develops other areas of her life, she will be able to transfer that side into new venues of satisfaction, whether it is volunteering, politics, hobbies, a new business, etc., when the power of her beauty no longer exists.

February 9, 2009 Posted by | Society | Leave a comment

This is the time to help Obama

I shake my head at how some Republicans and right wing commentators, bitter after an ugly electoral loss and years of hearing harsh criticism for the man they voted for, George W. Bush, now feel it’s time for a backlash. They are having a almost perverse pleasure in picking apart any act President Obama does.  They are not concerned with the well being of the country as much as blasting liberals and our “socilialist” ideas. What are they smoking? Obama’s administration inherited this chaos! He did not cause it, and it will take a herculean  effort with the help of us all to bring some prosperity again to this country. This bipartisanship does not help the country, it brings division, dissention and the us against them mentality.

Right wingers are so angry and lack such empathy towards their fellow citizens that it makes  me think they did not have love and affection as babies and kids. Not enough touching and holding. They can be vicious and are masters in distoring reality (Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh), consequently,  the less educated folks with less analitical thinking ability are fascinated by the hatred they spew.

Obama is a well intentioned man. He wants to do it right, he wants to make a mark and he does not need to be attacked. Hey right wingers, offer some constructive criticism. Are you even able to recognize that it is impossible for everything to be solved just like magic? McCain, I know you have a bad temper and now you want to sit on the sidelines and make fun of Obama, but that’s an easy task. Let’s see how YOU would fix the mess your buddy put us into.

February 4, 2009 Posted by | Grievances, Politics | Leave a comment

When your daughter gets married, you win a son

 

…and when your son gets married, you lose a son. And so the saying goes. There is a certain wisdom and common sense in that sentence. Put it this way: when a man gets married, his allegiance will be first to his wife. If that is not so, the marriage will have an enormous amount of conflict.

Remember the advice Jack Nicholson gave the taxi driver in “The Departed”? Wise man.

The above not only applies to your son, but also to your brother, your father if he remarries and your best male friend. A man’s wife (or steady girlfriend) will want to be the first and foremost woman in his eyes/life. If her husband or boyfriend puts his mother or sister first, or keeps secrets from her with his mother and sister, daughter or close female friend, the main relationship will crumble.

I suspect men do not have that possesiveness. They don’t need that exclusivity. They are happy to share their wives or girlfriends with her best friends and family members and let them gossip away…..but won’t they feel second best if their wives or GF’s have a very close male friend, or keeps secrets with her brother? Of course they do feel bothered, but they complain less about it. I polled some male friends who said they do want to be the most important person in their wives’ and GF’s lives, and they would feel bad if she put Daddy or bro first. So there you go!

February 3, 2009 Posted by | Relationships | 2 Comments

The two Americas

To divide America strictly in Blue States and Red States and put Americans in 2 distincts categories: liberals and conservatives, is a warped way of thinking. There are many shades of grey when it comes to political preference, world vision, values and lifestyles.

However, the Bush era brought to light the huge disparity there is between the conservative, religious and working class small town American and the more liberal, secular, cultured and well read cosmopolitan American. They are totally different animals. They eat differently, they look different (overweight vs. skinny), they have very different forms of entertainment (think Monster Truck show for the first group and art gallery/arts and craft fair for the second), they watch different TV shows (think American Idol and Dancing with the Stars and Jerry Springer vs. Foreign movies and news) and they mostly view America wtih distinct eyes.

Group A (which Sarah Palin seems to be the goddess) thinks America has some priviliged role in the world, some god-given power, and is the only decent place to live in the world. Group B (which John Kerry is a good representative) has travelled abroad and may even have lived abroad. It recognizes that even though America is a really nice place to live with an awesome quality of  life (except for a few areas) it is not the ONLY decent and civilized and prosperous place in the world.

Even the notion of quality of life can differ from individual to individual. While for some people it’s having  a mall full of shops near their house, for others it the sense of belonging and human contact you can still have in countries where you actually see people walking in the streets.

The well read and cultured individuals, world travellers and the very wealthy have a lot more in common with similar folks in other countries than with their fellow conservative compatriots. They read the same books and magazines, travel in the same circles, watch the same movies (“The Reader”, “Frost/Nixon”) and wear the same fashion styled clothes whether they live in Sao Paulo, Mumbai, Berlin or Madrid.

It is tempting to attach the word conservative to the words uneducated, working class, blue collar and redneck. But the reality is that many upper middle class and wealthy Americans consider themselves conservatives for two reasons: a unfounded and old fashioned concept that Democrats will steal all their money and businesses with high taxes and the brainwash of religion.

Rich conservatives think liberals smoke pot all day and have sex with their siblings. They think that religion is a “moral brake” that will keep them from drugs, divorce, alcoholism and promiscuity, since in their minds morals are exclusive to religion. They are not. It has been shown that atheists actually are the most morals ones when it comes to personal behavior. And religion has never, ever, proven to be a deterrant of imoral behavior; maybe for a short period (the fear of sin put into Catholic school kids who would do everything behind the prefect’s back).

As I always have said, there are two weapons against ignorance: education and information.  And the biggest tool we have for quick dissemination of information is the internet. That is my hope for the Muslim world too, which might get rid of radicals on their own.

Maybe the bridge between the 2 Americas will also get shorter, once ideas are more accessible and the US becomes more secular. The influence of the shameful “Business churches”: megachurches that are profit oriented while duping fragile and “beaten up by life” people without hope into contributing a large amount of their meager incomes in exchange for a false promise of “salvation” and “eternal life” could also lessen once the younger and more techy generations have  readily available access to new ideas and information.

February 3, 2009 Posted by | Society | Leave a comment