The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services, a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.
The U.S. Constitution provides for a Judicial Branch including one supreme Court. It also appears to assume that the Supreme Court will include a Chief Justice, stipulating that the Chief Justice shall preside over any Presidential impeachment trial in the Senate. However, the Constitution is silent on other matters, such as the size and composition of the Supreme Court, the time and place for sitting, and the Court’s internal organization … leaving those questions to Congress.
In addition to setting the size of the Supreme Court, Congress also has determined the time and place of the Court’s sessions, as well as the salaries of its justices. Supreme Court decisions establish that the Exceptions Clause grants Congress broad power to regulate the Court’s appellate jurisdiction.
Annual pay per justice as of January 1, 2023, is $274,200 … except for the chief justice, who receives $286,700.By no means paltry sums.
The Supreme Court currently comprises nine justices: the Chief Justice of the United States and eight Associate Justices. The justices are nominated by the president and confirmed with the “advice and consent” of the United States Senate, per Article II of the United States Constitution.
Congress also has significant authority to determine what cases the Court has jurisdiction to hear. The Constitution only grants the Supreme Court original jurisdiction over the relatively narrow categories of Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party.” In all the other Cases subject to federal jurisdiction, Article III grants the Court appellate Jurisdiction … with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as Congress shall make.
Show me, please, where it says that in the Constitution.
As with guns, words – i.e., “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” – have been taken out of their original (and implied) context and prostituted to assume other, subsequent meanings.
Take corruption, for instance.
Corruption may involve many activities including bribery, influence peddling and embezzlement. Political corruption occurs when an officeholder or other governmental employee acts with an official capacity for personal gain.
Which brings us to where we find ourselves today.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is facing more questions about his finances, with a new report about thousands of dollars of income he’s reporting from a real estate firm with ties to his wife, Ginni Thomas. On his financial disclosure forms, Thomas reported rental income totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars from a firm called Ginger, Ltd., Partnership, The Washington Post reported.
That Nebraska firm no longer exists, having been closed 17 years ago.
Thomas is facing calls for an investigation and his resignation.
The supreme court justice claims he was advised that he did not have to disclose luxury trips paid for by GOP megadonor Harlan Crow because Crow and his wife are “personal friends,” said Thomas in his first statement on the matter.
Before then, conservative activist Ginni Thomas has “no memory” of what she discussed with her husband during the heat of the battle to overturn the 2020 presidential election, according to congressional testimony.
Ginni Thomas recalled “an emotional time” in which her mood was lifted by her husband and Mark Meadows, then Donald Trump’s chief of staff, a transcript of her deposition with the congressional committee investigating the January 6 attack on the US Capitol shows. Thomas has been a prominent backer of Trump’s lies that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him.
At 74, her husband is the oldest and most conservative member of America’s highest court, which has played a crucial part in settling disputed elections.
Speaking of wives of the supreme court justices, two years after John Roberts‘s confirmation as the Supreme Court’s chief justice in 2005, his wife, Jane Sullivan Roberts, made a pivot: After a long and distinguished career as a lawyer, she refashioned herself as a legal recruiter, a matchmaker who pairs job-hunting lawyers up with corporations and firms.
Roberts told a friend that the change was motivated by a desire to avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest, given that her husband was the highest-ranking judge in the country. “There are many paths to the good life,” she said. “There are so many things to do if you’re open to change and opportunity.”
And life was indeed good for the Robertses, at least between 2007 and 2014.
During that eight-year stretch, according to internal records from her employer, Jane Roberts generated $10.3 million in commissions paid out by corporations and law firms for placing high-dollar lawyers with them.
That eye-popping figure comes from records in a whistle-blower complaint filed by a disgruntled former colleague of Roberts, who says that, as the spouse of the most powerful judge in the United States, the income she earns from law firms that practice before the Court should be subject to public scrutiny.
Most damning of all, it features a never-heard-before audio recording made by one of Kavanaugh’s Yale colleagues—Partnership for Public Service president and CEO Max Stier—that not only corroborates Ramirez’s charges but suggests that Kavanaugh violated another unnamed woman as well.
As Democrats remember with still smouldering fury, when Mitch McConnell was majority leader, he refused to grant Merrick Garland–now Attorney General of the United States–even a token hearing after he was nominated to the Supreme Court by Barack Obama in March 2016 to fill the late Antonin Scalia’s seat. The day Garland was tapped, McConnell declared, “It is a president’s constitutional right to nominate a Supreme Court justice, and it is the Senate’s constitutional right to act as a check on a president and withhold its consent.”
Garland was never granted a hearing, a slap in the face to democracy and to America’s first black president.
Another supreme court justice, Samuel Alitosaid the decision he wrote removing the federal right to abortion made him and other US supreme court justices “targets of assassination” but denied claims he was responsible for its leak in draft form.
Alito wrote the ruling in Dobbs v Jackson, the Mississippi case that overturned Roe v Wade, which established the right to abortion in 1973. His draft ruling was leaked to Politico on 2 May last year, to uproar and protest nationwide. The final ruling was issued on 24 June.
A nearly $2 million sale of property co-owned by Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuchto a prominent law firm executive in 2017 is raising new questions about the lax ethics reporting requirements for Supreme Court justices.
Property records from Grand County, Colorado, show that the Walden Group LLC–a limited-liability company in which Gorsuch was a partner–sold a 40-acre property on the Colorado River to Brian Duffy, chief executive officer of the prominent law firm Greenberg Traurig. Duffy and his wife, Kari Duffy, paid $1.8 million for the property on May 12, 2017–just one month after Gorsuch was sworn in as an associate justice of the Supreme Court.
The financial disclosure report filed by Gorsuch for calendar year 2017 lists a sale by the Walden Group LLC for a profit of between $250,000 and $500,000. However, the section where a buyer should be listed is blank. It’s unclear if that’s a violation of ethics rules.
And, so, these questions and doubts beg to be settled by Justice League overseers.
The Justice League is an all-star ensemble cast of established superhero characters from DC Comics’ portfolio. Although these superheroes usually operate independently, they assemble as a team to tackle especially formidable villains.
The cast of the Justice League usually features a few highly popular characters who have their own solo books, such as Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, alongside a number of lesser-known characters who benefit from the exposure. The Justice League was created to boost the profiles and sales of its characters through cross-promotion and helped to develop the DC Universe as a shared universe, as it is through teams like the Justice League that the characters regularly interact.
Beyond comic books, the Justice League has been adapted to several television shows, films, and video games included.
More recently, it has been shadowing the United States Supreme Court.
Our options for reading entertainment and enjoyment grow fewer and farther between.
There’s always been competition: Look v. Life, Time v. Newsweek, People v. Us, The Saturday Evening Post v. Reader’s Digest, Ladies Home Journal v. Good Housekeeping, National Geographic v. Smithsonian, Playboy v. Penthouse, et al.
Yet only the strongest survived.
And even then, only after a fashion.
Gone, by and large, are in-depth stories and original narratives, replaced by “posts,” catchy photos with captions, and different spins on the same subject matter cluttering our lives.
Time – or our lack thereof – is one of the major thieves of being engaged in a magazine. Reader’s Digest realized that in its condensed versions of bigger magazine pieces. Heck, even Cliff Notes and Classics Illustrated understood that we had other things to do with our time than read long-time classics.
Magazines filled a niche, appealing to our special interests, creating communities of like-minded people who read what most interested them specifically—including the ads. Indeed, magazines were one of the first media to sell advertising targeting consumers by psychographics as well as by their demographics.
Few take the time today to appreciate the balancing act that comprise magazines.
Like newspapers and newsletters, they’re periodicals published at given intervals … most often weekly, monthly, or that frequency reserved for the realm of magazines: fortnightly.
But unlike their brethren, they weren’t designed to be all things to all people or to cover some subjects to many. Nor were they constrained by geographic boundaries or time-sensitive data. You could leave a good magazine on your bedside night stand or beside the bathroom throne, eager to thumb through its pages and pick up where you left off.
Newspapers came to us in sections – national and international, local, sports, entertainment, classified advertising – while magazines, like sandwiches, were divided among columns and departments, with features filling the well in between. For their part, newsletters were a mishmash of topical content condensed into four to 16 pages.
“All the news thats fit to print,” the slogan of the New York Times, is perhaps the most famous phrase in American journalism. Words dominated images, cramming as much information as possible onto the front page. And if an article didn’t fit in the space allotted, it “jumped” to a page farther on back. It took People magazine to rethink the anatomy — down to the fonts (sans serif “Helvetica” rather than more formal “Times”) and type faces — and using more expensive color photography only on the cover and paid advertising, with black and white the editorial mainstay.
Along came the Internet and challenged all that …
If newspapers, magazines, and newsletters wouldn’t give up the ghost to be swallowed and spit out in bits and bytes – numbers! — they could try, at least, to exist side-by-side boosting their namesakes. Especially if they (or parts of them) were free.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO), the process of maximizing the number of visitors to a particular website by ensuring that the site appears high on the list of results returned by search engines, taught Madison Avenue money managers that, “the key to getting more traffic lies in integrating content with search engine optimization and social media marketing.”
There it is, folks: Publishers want traffic and numbers rather than readers and loyal subscribers. No longer does it matter who reads an article, editorial, even comic strip, but how many people search for it and (best of all!) “click through,” scanning the first words. Search engine optimization is the practice of optimizing web pages to increase a website’s visibility “organically” in the search engine result pages (SERPs).
SEO is completely different from search engine (paid) advertising. With paid advertising, you’re paying search engines like Google to show your website on the search result page. Instead, with SEO, you’re optimizing your website so it organically shows up on the first page of the search result. The number of visitors who come to your website through these search results is defined as organic traffic (because they found your website themselves).
Portugal Living Magazine used Facebook advertising to increase its own numbers: reach (how many people saw the ad) and engagement (how many people clicked and responded to it). An ad reaching 3,402 people in our defined audience, for instance, reached 2,131 through a mobile app feed and 593 from an Instagram feed. The other 679 came from a slew of sources.
To promote our website, a more aggressive ad on Facebook reached 19,200 people: 211 engaged, 198 clicked on the link, and 13 reacted. Cost per click: €0.08. And where did they see the ad itself? Three-quarters (73%) or 12,888 viewed it via a mobile app, while slightly more than a quarter (27%) or 4,776 saw our ad on the right hand side of their desktop.
When three-fourths of the population see information on a mobile application compared to one-fourth who see it elsewhere, there’s no question that we are a mobile society. We depend on our mobiles not only to make calls and send messages or to get directions and seek answers to questions, but to read and watch on those miniscule screens. Witness the success of Amazon’s Kindle and other computerized “pads” especially designed for reading.
I’ll briefly share how that impacts a 100+ page magazine like Portugal Living Magazine next.
For now, let’s just say that magazines are migrating to websites, where they’re configured quite differently for readers, writers, publishers, and advertisers.
The whole no longer is greater than the sum of its parts.
Bruce Joffe is publisher and creative director of Portugal Living Magazine.
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Iwas teaching journalism — specifically, a course entitled News Editing — at George Mason University in January 1981, when I could find no established precedents or protocols, no style guides or textbooks, to cite to my students about the layout dilemma.
On January 20, 1981, two distinctly remarkable, historic, front page news-making moments occurred simultaneously: After 444 days, Americans held hostage by Iran were released; and Ronald Reagan, a former actor and California governor, was inaugurated president of the USA. The hostages were formally released into United States custody just minutes after Reagan was sworn into office as the country’s 40th president on January 20, 1981.
How would or should newspaper editors handle the coverage, my students and I debated: Was one more important, more timely, more consequential than the other? Which story should be featured more prominently? There was no question that both stories demanded front page placement. But where on the page? Traditionally, newspapers place the most important stories at the top of the page; being on the right-hand side implied that a story was more important than others on the page. The Washington Post devoted its front page to these two stories, although one was placed “above the fold,” the other on the bottom half.
Guess which story took priority and preeminence?
Jimmy Carter was bedeviled by two behemoths during his single, four-year presidency.
On November 4, 1979, a group of militarized Iranian college students took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Soon, 52 United States diplomats and citizens were held hostage. A diplomatic stand off ensued. Lasting 444 days, this terrorist act triggered the most profound crisis of the Carter presidency, as well as a personal ordeal for the president himself.
President Carter pursued a policy of restraint that put a higher value on the lives of the hostages than on American retaliatory power or protecting is own political future.
Allegations of conspiracy between Reagan’s presidential team with Iran until after the election to thwart Carter from pulling off an “October surprise” abounded. And thus began the changing of the guard–from partisan distinctions to ugly words and vicious divisions.
The other dragon that President Carter couldn’t slay was economics. Between high inflation and fixed mortgage rates hitting over 14%, it was also about the money … as it always is.
Jimmy Carter has always been a good man. Moreover, he’s been a good Christian man–not just in terms of religious etymology but in practical ways, too. He practiced the words preached by the itinerant Jewish rabbi from Nazareth.
In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus explained what it looks like to live as his follower and to be part of God’s Kingdom. These passages from Matthew perhaps represent the major ideals of the Christian life.
They also reflect peanut farmer Jimmy Carter’s life and legacy.
• Blessed are the weak, for they shall inherit the earth.
• Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the “salt” of the earth.
• Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
• Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
• Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
(About that thirst blessing above, let’s not forget that Jimmy was overshadowed by his younger brother, Billy, and the infamous Billy’s Beer. Indeed, the Georgia farmer brought a colorful cast of characters with him to Washington.)
At 98, Jimmy Carter is one of America’s most active former presidents. His efforts at peace-making, international negotiation, home construction for the impoverished (Habitat for Humanity), and the eradication of diseases in Africa earned him the world’s respect. Forty years after leaving office, he continued to remain an actor on the world stage and at home.
As president, his tireless efforts to bring Israel and Egypt together in a peace agreement during the 1978 negotiations at Camp David may be seen today as the most consequential contribution any U.S. president has made towards Israel’s security since its founding. The treaty earned the Israelis everything they so long had sought: a separate peace treaty that ended not only the state of war with their most threatening neighbor, but also the freedom to carry out other strategic and military objectives without concern for igniting a regional war.
Despite serving a single term, Jimmy Carter ranks as one of the most consequential U.S. presidents when it comes to environmentalism. He installed solar panels on the White House, urged Americans to turn down their thermostats while sporting a sweater, and pressured Congress into putting tens of millions of Alaskan acres off limits to developers.
In 1982, with his wife Rosalynn, he founded the Carter Center dedicated to the protection of human rights, promotion of democracy, and prevention of disease. His determination to promote the rights of women led him, in 1920, to sever ties with the Southern Baptist Convention after six decades, over its rejection of women in leadership positions. He explained his decision to quit the church in a 2009 article entitled “Losing my religion for equality,” which later went viral. “Women and girls have been discriminated against for too long in a twisted interpretation of the word of God,” he wrote in the article.
The Nobel Peace laureate and longtime human rights advocate campaigned to end violence and discrimination against women since leaving the White House in 1981, calling it the “human and civil rights struggle of the time.”
In an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Carter said that Southern Baptist leaders reading the Bible out of context led to the adoption of increasingly “rigid” views. Defying the largest Protestant denomination in the United States whose leaders also voted to condemn homosexuality, abortion, pornography, and adultery, he stated, “In my opinion, this is a distortion of the meaning of Scripture … I personally feel the Bible says all people are equal in the eyes of God.” Carter continued as a deacon at the Baptist church in his hometown of Plains, Georgia, where he was a faithful Sunday school teacher drawing congregants and visitors alike to rub shoulders with this humble, heart-warming man.
Carter, 98, decided to spend his last days with his family, supported by palliative care rather than medical intervention.
We should nod our heads, hold hands together, and allow our hearts to embrace these words from the scriptures according to Jimmy Carter: “I have one life and one chance to make it count for something. My faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, whenever I can, for as long as I can, with whatever I have to try to make a difference.”
Even for those of us living in Portugal, there’s plenty of news available in English, especially via computer and “smart” TV.
Among the staples that come with our Internet packages are “news” channels Al Jezeera (Qatar), BBC (UK), Bloomberg (USA), CCTV and CGTN (China), CNN (USA), Euro News (EU), France 24, KBS World (Korea), Sky News (UK), i24 (Israel), NHK World (Japan), and TRT World (Turkey). All in English. Snippets from other news outlets can be accessed as well via their YouTube feeds.
Can you guess which channel uses the following slogans?
• “Facts First”
• “Journalism that Reflects the World We Live In”
• “Go There”
• “Capturing the Moment”
• “Journalism That Matters”
If you guessed CNN, good for you. (Or maybe not.) You may be viewing too much of this cable-sourced channel that uses these catchphrases as part of its “This Is CNN” branding campaign.
Surely, anyone who watches CNN has heard and seen one of its famous faces in a “I’m (name) … and THIS is CNN” promotion.
Pay attention to how they emphasize the “… and THIS” part of the sentence: dramatic, seductive, exclamatory, emphatically, defensively, declaratory, et al. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is, perhaps, the only one to say the word (this) nonchalantly, without shouting it out over his name or the other words.
While I tend to channel hop and surf to get different perspectives on the same happenings, I confess that I spend more time with CNN than with all the others combined. Because I’m American. Perhaps that’s why I’m so opinionated and annoyed at what used to be known as the Cable News Network.
I’ve gotten to know CNN’s people—their actions, voices, looks, and demeaner. Some of them drive me nuts; others deserve accolades and more airtime than they’re given.
Women, especially, are featured in the promotions.
Can any CNN-watcher hear the words “I am Nigerian by blood, British by birth, and American by residence,” without identifying CNN’s own Cleopatra—Zane Asher? She adds: “It is important that those same strands of inclusivity that flow through me are mirrored in the stories that we tell.”
Am I the only one a bit dismayed by the inclusive promotion with diminutive (size one?) Lady Julia Chatterly’s hip gyrations in the continuous commercials for her First Move show?
CNN men should be roasted or toasted, too, when the shoe fits.
Wolf Blitzer, for instance, surely befits his name. I get nervous and edgy every time I’m in his situation room with breaking news.
Or the ubiquitous Richard Quest who’s hardly ever on his own primetime program anymore? How anyone can be so obnoxious, crude, rude, and in-your-face infuriates me. We all know people who don’t listen because they’re too busy getting their own next words ready. That’s Richard Quest. Maybe the network sees him as an asset, but, to me, he’s just an ass that turns me off whenever his gravelly pitch folk voice grinds. “On assignment” or traveling around his world of wonder, it’s good to see the stand-ins whose presentations are always better? It’s time to say “Good riddance” to Richard Quest and his Clarabell ringer.
Actually, the one thing on CNN that bothers me more than that horrid man is watching gruesome images of the devastation in Turkey and Syria (or Ukraine) violated by that little box on the lower right hand of the screen updating the status of stock markets worldwide. Yeah, poor people are suffering but the wealthy merchants of gloom and doom can’t be left without their score cards.
It’s what Quest would call one of his “profitable moments.”
In other news, replacing Hana Gorami with Isa Soares was a brilliant move on CNN’s part. While the former was repeatedly caught live and on-camera looking bored, fidgeting, and forgetting her lines, the latter is dynamic … whether on air or on the ground. And she’s Portuguese—fluent in her native language, English and Spanish as well.
Isn’t it time to retire the promo for Erin Burnett’s OutFront show? A “potential breakthrough in treating Corona virus,” and whether “all this spending” could lead to “a bigger economic crisis” are gone with the wind already. And that poor girl so delighted that a viewer paid her rent that month must have a year pre-paid by now. “Shut up,” she said. Yeah.
Meanwhile, girl-next-door Kaitlan Collins makes a better chatterer than Chief White House Correspondent, in my opinion. That honor now goes to Phil Mattingly, who’s doing an excellent job in show biz now as the former Eddie Munster. Can he fit any more words into his brief broadcast bites? Only dashing Frederik Pleitgen seems able to speak so quickly yet coherently.
Back to Kaitlan: What threesome could be any cuter for an early morning chat fest than Kaitlan Collins, Poppy Harlow, and Don Lemon?
Smart, sassy, and stunning with a mane of auburn hair is Bianca Nobile … but why play hide-and-seek with her (former) half-hour show to pair her with regal Max Foster as co-hosts on the catch-as-can CNN Newsroom? Never mind that he’s handsome and has his own share of good hair.
(Speaking of hair, does any man have more perfectly coiffed hair than John Berman? Ivan Watson’s got great hair, too. And what happened to cutie correspondent David Culter?)
One thing CNN is guilty of, as are most round-the-clock newscasts, is repetition. How many different hosts and reporters can tell the same story – Breaking News! Breaking News! Breaking News! – from different faces and voices? A really big story (Trump’s or Biden’s or Pence’s supposedly classified documents removed from the White House, Library of Congress, or National Archives) breaks. Now that we’ve been told about it, bring in the crowd to give their thoughts, implications, and guesses on the outcome.
Overdone after so many videoclips and playbacks with the has-been experts, it’s time for panel discussions. Honestly, I do enjoy the banter between and among Dana Bash, Abby Phillip, and Van Jones.
Cheers to the “second tier” of CNN anchors—those who fill in for the name “brands” without pomp and circumstance: Fredericka (Fred) Whitfield, Brianna Keilar, Pamela Brown, Jim Acosta, John King.
Clarissa Ward deserves an Emmy, Nobel, and/or Pulitzer prize for her documentary commercials, as well as for her sensitive, sensible, heroic work in Afghanistan and Turkey!
BREAKING NEWS …
When push comes, it’s good to remember that there’s more than one CNN in town. The new CNN Portugal (in Portuguese) can learn some important lessons from the intrusive tactics of its American counterpart.
We can, too …
Perhaps it will motivate more of us to focus on our Portuguese.
Bruce Joffe is publisher and creative director of Portugal Living Magazine.
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Some people continue to wear them when out walking, shopping, even driving in their cars.
Most people no longer wear them, except where it’s obrigatorio–in pharmacies, health centers, and other such places.
Others should — but don’t — wear them. Like the waitress in the restaurant we ate at on Saturday. Her cough was continuous. Not the dry, hacking kind … nor the wet, sneezing kind that’s symptomatic of colds or the flu with phlegm. Hers was an incessant cough, like something scratching relentlessly at her throat. When she didn’t have anything in her hands — a plate of food, a pitcher of wine, a menu — she’d cough into her hands. Not once did she wash her hands while working or waiting on customers.
“Deves chevar uma máscara,” I told her in my best Portuguese while she stood over our table taking our order. Não, she shook her head. She’d have nothing to do with wearing a mask. Except for her father (maybe her husband?), nobody else was handling the food. And he was too busy moving ice cream around in the freezer to notice or be bothered about the need for good hygiene–especially around food.
Even during the height of the pandemic, most people in Portugal understood the need to wear masks to protect themselves as well as others. It didn’t require a government mandate (although one was issued), nor was it a matter of government interference, intervention, and/or disinformation. Certainly, there were those who believed in government conspiracies and refused to wear masks. But they were few and far between. The same could be said for Spain, where the protective face shields are called mascarillas instead of máscaras.
While there was some grumbling at times, mask-wearing never became the cause celébre provoking country-wide revolutions and demonstrations as has women not wearing face covering hijabs in Muslim countries–especially the Islamic Republic of Iran. Nor was mask wearing (or not) the divisive political issue at rallies and riots in the USA (and elsewhere).
Today when I see people wearing masks, I assume it’s because of common sense: people caring for themselves and others. Although their facial apparel makes them stand out in the crowds, I respect them for going against the grain and taking care.
Russ and I suffered through bad colds, or maybe the flu, for two weeks recently. When not bedridden or staying inside, we wore masks. In the supermarkets. In shops. On the streets.
As Covid restrictions and travel advisories become realities again, mainly because of China’s international travel while cases of this plague-like virus and its variants are surging, it’s well worth remembering that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
When in doubt, wear a mask.
There’s no law requiring you to do so … but there’s no law saying you shouldn’t.
Bruce Joffe is publisher and creative director of Portugal Living Magazine, the thoughtful magazine for people everywhere with Portugal on their minds. To read current and past issues … and subscribe — free! — visithttps://portugallivingmagazine.com.
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Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. From its Galveston, Texas, origin in 1865, the observance of June 19th as the African American Emancipation Day has spread across the United States and beyond.
Juneteenth commemorates African American freedom and emphasizes education and achievement. It is a day, a week, and in some areas, a month marked with celebrations, guest speakers, picnics and family gatherings. It is a time for reflection and rejoicing, a time for assessment, self-improvement, and for planning the future. Its growing popularity signifies a level of maturity and dignity in America long overdue. In cities across the country, people of all races, nationalities and religions are joining hands to truthfully acknowledge a period in our history that shaped and continues to influence our society.
Yet it must also be a time of self-reflection and social responsibility.
Remember the story in the Book of Exodus? Time and again, despite disasters and disease, Pharaoh refused to “let my people go!” The Israelites were seeking more than liberty and freedom; they were clamoring for freedom from bondage.
In the wake of the nationwide protests against police brutality in 2020, the push for federal recognition of Juneteenth gained new momentum, and Congress quickly pushed through legislation in. On June 17, 2021, President Biden signed the bill into law, making Juneteenth the 11th holiday recognized by the federal government.
While celebrations in 2020 and 2021 were largely subdued by fear of contagion of the coronavirus pandemic, this year Juneteenth was observed by nationwide celebrations.
Could we do any less to honor the lives of George Floyd, Rodney King, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Philandro Castle, and others? All African Americans offed by white police officers. Let’s not forget others, like Trayvon Martin, murdered by self-appointed racist vigilantes. Each was a human whose life was taken prematurely and unjustly by powerful foes and opportunists.
But, behind the scenes, a group of powerful people plotted to keep black and brown skinned people — mainly the poor and the marginalized in conservative, duplicitous states — the freedom from bondage they had suffered and worked so hard to achieve.
While Americans of color celebrated Juneteenth, the US Supreme Court handed down a bevy of decisions that will affect Americans across the country. But mostly black and brown Americans who, historically, have been the subjects of hatred, prejudice, social injustice, and inequality because certain people need to feel superior and deny the rights promised to all U.S. citizens by the country’s Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
That’s never been the case for the poor and the marginalized, no matter how indigent they may be, as declared by the “justices” of the Supreme Court.
Recent rulings from the nation’s highest court range from topics such as gun rights to Miranda rights. The most notable ruling overturned Roe v. Wade and upended constitutional protections on abortion. In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court, struck down the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that federally protected a woman’s right to have an abortion. The court’s ruling leaves abortion rights to be determined at the state level. Several GOP-led states moved immediately to enact statewide bans.
Guess which states and their demographics?
“Pro-life politics in the United States used to be mostly posturing and positioning, the taking of extreme rhetorical positions at no real-world cost,” writes David Frum in The Atlantic. “Republicans in red states could enact bills that burdened women who sought abortions, knowing that many voters shrugged off these statutes and counted on the courts to protect women’s rights. Now the highest court has abdicated its protective role, and those voters will have to either submit to their legislature’s burdens or replace the legislators.”
Comparing the history, sociology, and politics of Roe v. Wade to Prohibition in this country, Frum reflects that, “many of the men and women poised to cast Republican ballots in 2022 and 2024 to protest inflation and COVID-19 school closures may be surprised to discover that anti-abortion laws they had assumed were intended only to prohibit others also apply to them. They may be surprised to discover that they could unwittingly put out of business in vitro–fertilization clinics, because in vitro fertilization can involve intentionally destroying fertilized embryos. They may be surprised to discover that a miscarriage can lead to a police investigation. They may be surprised that their employer could face retaliation from lawmakers if it covers the costs of traveling out of state for an abortion. The concept of fetal personhood could, if made axiomatic, impose all kinds of government-enforced limits and restrictions on pregnant women.”
Frum’s conclusions, however, apply to rich, white, mainly Republican women.
I’m talking about the discrimination, harm, and deaths that surely will be borne by others. Because, at the same time people were commemorating Juneteenth, the US Supreme Court was adding insult to injury for them …
By hook or by crook, on TV and in the movies, almost all Americans have heard of the Miranda Rule. The Supreme Court now ruled that suspects may not sue officers who fail to inform them of their right to remain silent or to have a lawyer present. That means the failure to administer the warning will not expose a law enforcement officer to potential damages in a civil lawsuit. It will not affect, however, the exclusion of such evidence at a criminal trial.
Given the preponderance of media coverage focused on Roe v. Wade, you needed to Google this and other rulings made by SCOTUS before adjourning.
The Supreme Court also struck down a New York gun law enacted more than a century ago that placed restrictions on carrying a concealed handgun outside the home. Believe it or not, the Second Amendment refers to state militias–no longer active because we now have the National Guard, US Army, Navy, Marines, Airforce, and Coast Guard. The New York law in question was written when every male citizen was subject to being called into a militia and required to provide his own firearms, which otherwise must be kept inside his home. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in his 6-3 majority opinion that the Constitution protects the right to carry a gun outside the home. His opinion changes the framework that lower courts will use going forward as they analyze other gun restrictions, such as weapons bans in California or the gun safety bill President Joe Biden signed into law after approval by both political parties and both houses of Congress.
Republican leaders of the North Carolina legislature could step in to defend the state’s voter ID law, even though the state’s attorney general, a Democrat, is already doing so, decreed the Supreme Court. The opinion will make it easier for other state officials to intervene (in some instances) in lawsuits when the state government is divided.
The Supreme Court also said that Maine cannot exclude religious schools from a tuition assistance program that allows parents to use vouchers to send their children either to public or private schools. The 6-3 ruling is the latest move by the conservative court to expand religious rights and bring more religion into public life, a trend bolstered by the addition to the bench of three of former President Donald Trump‘s nominees.
Remember: Current U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland was denied even a hearing by Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans when nominated to the bench by Barack Obama. Yet two U.S. presidents who lost the popular vote in recent elections — Donald Trump and George W. Bush — were responsible for loading the Court with four of its nine justices.
With their lifetime “super majority” on the bench , we now welcome to their club the Supreme Court of the United States and its (inj)ustice system.
Except for the utterly transparent and crystal clear plotting of former president Donald Trump exposed in minute detail by the Select Committee, the new normal has abdicated reality in favor of lies and deception spread by the executive and legislative branches of government.
It’s time to include the Supreme Court in their political posturing and pressure campaigns.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is probably rolling over in her grave.
Bruce Joffe is publisher and creative director of Portugal Living Magazine. You are invited to read our current and past issues on this page of its website. For those who prefer the feel of paper pages, paperback editions of the magazine are available at all Amazon sites.
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Even before the international pandemic which set people against governments and governments against people, 2019 proved to be a pivotal year of critical political incidents and innuendo.
“On the American continent, it seemed easy to understand (Jair) Bolsonaro and (Donald) Trump’s electoral success,” postulated Luís Gouveia Junior in a 5 March 2021 editorial published by DemocraciaAbierta, a global platform that publishes Spanish, Portuguese, and English voices which influence debates on democracy, justice, citizen participation and human rights.
“Brazil and the USA both faced undeniable problems, and the two candidates provided simple, if racist and undemocratic answers. Bolsonaro was a strongman who proposed to crack down on the violence and crime that plagues Rio de Janeiro. Trump was a voice for the part of his country that blamed immigrants for taking their jobs.”
Yet, how does that explain André Ventura in Portugal?
“On the face of it, says Gouveia, “the social context would suggest that there’s little potential for a far-Right surge. Roma people, who are targeted by André Ventura’s rhetoric, represent less than 0.5% of the country’s population.”
The question, then, is how does Ventura manage to make his pitch under such adverse conditions?
“One possible explanation–that the far Right presents itself as the only anti-system voice and appeals to voters who are disillusioned with the system–brings the examples of Brazil, the USA, and Portugal together,” Gouveia proposes. “The anti-system argument is not new, with authors such as Boaventura de Sousa Santos having discussed it at length within the Portuguese context. What is interesting, however, is that the anti-system discourse alone seems to be enough for the far-Right to gain political ground.”
# # # # #
Over the summer of 2019, Mamadou Ba, the head of an anti-racist organization in Lisbon, received a letter. “Our goal is to kill every foreigner and anti-fascist–and you are among our targets,” it read. A few weeks later, it was followed by a message telling him to leave Portugal or let his family face the consequences. That message was accompanied by a bullet casing.
Ba’s experience is “one of a growing number of racist incidents perpetrated across Portugal that have led the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) to call for an urgent institutional response,” reported UK’s The Guardian newspaper, which lists additional anecdotes and evidence of racism and growth of the far right in Portugal:
After forgetting her child’s bus pass, a black woman and her daughter were assaulted because they didn’t have a bus ticket. Angolan-Portuguese Claudia Simoes was kicked by a policeman and placed in a chokehold outside a bus station in front of her daughter. Later, two Brazilian women were attacked by the police outside a Cape-Verdean club, and in the same month, Porto football player Moussa Marega, born in Mali, abandoned a game after fans shouted racial slurs.
A worse attack took place when black actor Bruno Candé was murdered after a man shot him four times in what ENAR described as “an explicitly racially motivated crime.”
In early 2019, police officers in Lisbon, called to intervene on an issue between two residents in the Bairro da Jamaica neighborhood, were captured on video beating and pushing several residents. The following day, young Black Portuguese held a demonstration against police brutality. Police forces intervened and responded by firing rubber bullets. This then sparked accusations of institutional racism within police forces.
“In recent months, there has been a very concerning rise in far-right racist attacks in Portugal, confirming that the hate messages are fueling more aggressive tactics that target human rights defenders from racial minorities,” the organization (ENAR) said.
Endorsed by 16 members of the European Parliament and 72 civil social organizations in a letter condemning recent cases of police brutality and racist attacks, the European Network Against Racism also sought action from authorities.
Ba, who heads the NGO SOS Racismo, agreed: “There has been an obvious escalation in violence – a clear result of the growth of far-right terrorism in Portugal over the past few years.”
In 2019, the Portuguese Commission for Equality and Against Discrimination received 436 complaints regarding cases of racism, an increase of 26% over 2018.
Despite the growing number of discrimination complaints, hardly any resulted in a conviction. Between 2014 and 2018, the number of convictions for “crimes of discrimination and incitement to hate and violence … is less than three,” according to police statistics provided to the Guardian.
Government data, however, claim that crime in Portugal has decreased steadily by 20% over the past 12 years.
On 17 December 2021, however, rights groups and politicians in Portugal condemned images that allegedly showed police officers abusing and torturing migrant workers and said those responsible must be punished.
The incidents took place in 2019 in the municipality of Odemira, known for its fruit and vegetable greenhouses that rely mainly on migrant labor from Southeast Asia to operate.
The prosecutor’s office said seven police officers in Odemira had been accused of 33 crimes against migrants. The GNR said in a statement that it was aware of the incidents and “promptly reported them” to the public prosecutor office.
Two of the seven officers had already been suspended, it said. Three of the officers were repeat offenders.
The GNR (National Republican Guard) officers are charged with a total of 33 crimes against immigrants, mostly from Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan.
To make matters worse, video evidence, filmed by the accused and broadcast by CNN Portugal and local broadcaster TVI, suggests a group of military police officers engaged in the random harassment of migrants.
“Behavior of this nature is absolutely unacceptable,” said Prime Minister Antonio Costa.
In March 2021, Dunja Mijatovic, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, called on Portuguese authorities to address the increasing level of racism more resolutely in the country, as well as to take additional steps to prevent and combat violence against women and domestic violence.
The Commissioner remains concerned about the rise of racially motivated hate crimes and hate speech—especially targeting Roma, people of African descent, and those perceived as foreigners. She recommends implementing a comprehensive action plan against racism and discrimination, urging the authorities to condemn all instances of hate speech and insist that politicians firmly and publicly refrain from using or tolerating racist rhetoric.
Evidently, the Commissioner’s voice carried some weight. Portugal said it will review its anti-racism laws, including those concerning fines and sanctions, the government announced in its National Plan to Combat Racism and Discrimination 2021-2025.
The government committed to “assess the possible revision of the legislation on combating discrimination and hate speech … in the scope of administrative offenses.” The government also announced its goal of “strengthening the system of sanctions for misdemeanors, viewing the framework of fines and sanctioned conducts.”
Article 240 of the criminal code will also be revised in light of the international instruments that bind Portugal “to accommodate all the prohibited discriminations,” Sofia Branco reported in an article released by Lusa, Portugal’s national news service.
Nonetheless, a former TV commentator whose penchant for provocation won her fame and notoriety in Portugal by describing calls for racial justice “traitorous,” and referring to Black Portuguese people by an old-fashioned word that translates to something like “Negro.” Susana García ran for mayor of Amadora, a city adjacent to Lisbon with one of the largest Black populations in Portugal.
Says Nicholas Casey in a 26 September (2021) New York Times piece, “Ms. Garcia’s high profile and her combative persona mean she has tapped into a question far larger than who should be mayor: Namely, how a former colonial power like Portugal should deal with today’s debates about racial justice.”
Ultimately, Garcia lost the mayoral race–handily–to socialist Carla Tavares.
Yet a former prime minister, judges, top bankers, business chiefs and football club presidents have all been ensnared in corruption scandals. But with their cases still mired in a sluggish legal system, “perceived flaws in the fight against graft have become a pressing political issue,” the Financial Times recently reported.
And with this being one of the primary fields where populists prey, given the fact that government has not dealt effectively with the problem, it is expected (at press time) that the extreme right will gain from it in the upcoming legislative election on January 30th. Portugal’s legal system’s handling of white-collar crime has come to fuel greater discontent.
With every new case of corruption in Portugal becoming another “nail in the coffin of democracy,” at least those nails get driven at a turtle’s pace … just like the legal justice systems themselves.
Meanwhile, the white nationalist movement is spreading.
On 8 December 2021, The Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, established in 2002 by the then Commission on Human Rights, noted with concern “the prevalence of systemic racism and racially-motivated violence and ill-treatment, racial profiling, abuse of authority, frequent police brutality towards people of African descent.”
Members of the Working Group visited Lisbon, Setubal, and Porto to gain first-hand knowledge of racism, racial discrimination, Afrophobia, xenophobia, and related intolerance affecting people of African descent in Portugal.
Their statement concluded: “Portuguese identity continues to be defined by its colonial past, as well as enslavement and the trade and trafficking of Africans, and racial equality efforts have not confronted the importance of a broad-based renegotiation of Portuguese identity.”
Racism. Hatred. White supremacy. Police brutality. Extremism. Prejudice. Discrimination. All are symptomatic of the so-called “alt-right” gaining strength in Spain and Portugal.
# # # # #
We left the USA for Portugal and Spain in March 2017 because of the alt-right’s growth. Disgusted by the politics, the police brutality, the discriminatory treatment of Black people, the anti-Semitic swastikas, the finger-pointing and curses hissed at LGBTs, the misogynistic attitudes towards women, the marginalization of minorities, the brutal caging and deportation of immigrants, and the overall worship of capitalism, we sold our home … packed our bags … said good-by … and emigrated from the United States to Portugal and Spain.
For 15 years, we had owned a vacation bolt in a small Spanish town (Olvera) in Andalucía, where we spent a number of weeks every year getting a foothold as expats in a foreign country. We decided to make our permanent residence in Portugal, however, so we could keep one foot in Spain and the other in Portugal.
Our status changed from expats to immigrants.
It’s been about four years now since we began dividing the days of our lives between Portugal and Spain. Throughout that time, we never have had cause to suspect or doubt the progressive attitudes in Iberia. For us, ultra-conservative-instigated hate crimes were a thing of the past.
Religious discrimination and hate crimes are on the rise in Spain, pushed by rhetoric from far-right political movements. The country’s interior ministry sounded the alarm in its most recent report, which revealed a 120 percent increase in incidents connected to crimes of religious intolerance in 2017, with 103 cases registered compared to 47 the previous year. Elsewhere in Iberia, police from Portugal’s National Anti-Terrorism Unit arrested 20 ultra-nationalists in an operation that involved searches across the country as part of an investigation into attempted murder and other hate crimes.
“Portuguese police officers told to remove racist tattoos within six months amid concerns over rising far-right,” asserted a headline in TheIndependent, a UK newspaper. The ban refers to “racist, extremist or violence-promoting symbols, words or drawings” and also covers earrings, bracelets and rings, Portugal’s police force said in a statement.
Police gave no estimate for how many officers might be affected by the ban, which coincides, according to the Independent, with increasing racist violence in the country.
After moments of disbelief, I couldn’t help but wonder why the government had targeted the racist tattoos of these Portuguese police rather than the racism under their skins.
Amid fears over the country’s far-right movement, protesters demonstrated in June 2020 against racism and fascism in Portugal.
In a 2018 report, the Council of Europe, a European human rights organization, referred to numerous grave accusations of racist violence against Portuguese police, while complaints to the country’s anti-discrimination commission rose by a quarter in 2019.
“The move comes after Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, Portugal’s president, declared that there would be ‘zero tolerance’ of racism in the country, as authorities launched an investigation over a number of email threats allegedly sent by a far-right group,” according to a news report. “The threats targeted several people, including two black lawmakers who were told to leave the country and threatened with murder.”
In early September, the Cameroonian philosopher Achille Mbembe and American intellectual Cornel West joined dozens of activists and academics around the world in signing an open letter calling for solidarity with the Black movement in Portugal, demanding accountability and concrete change to transform the “reality of structural racism and its manifestation in police brutality, racist violence and racial harassment in Portugal,” wrote Beatriz Ramaldo da Silva in a September 2020 article for Aljazeera.
Turns out that Portugal has become a target of alt-right ideology.
Boaventura de Sousa Santos, professor of sociology and director emeritus of the Centre for Social Studies at the University of Coimbra, frames the rise of Portugal’s far right within the context of wider global movement:
“There has always been a far-right base as is the case in Spain, Italy, Greece–the far-right was in power for 50 years in Portugal–and this basis never disappeared.”
Far-right internationalism is turning Portugal into a strategic target. “Clear illustrations of such signs include the recent attempt, by some intellectuals, to play the card of racial hatred in order to test existing divisions both on the right and the left and thereby influence the political agenda, the international meeting of far-right parties in Lisbon in August, and the strike called by the newly created National Union of Dangerous Goods Drivers, to take place at the same time as the Lisbon meeting,” claimed openDemocracy, a self-described “independent global media organization.”
# # # # #
Is Portugal so important as to deserve such strategic attention?
Portugal is vitally important because, from the point of view of the international far-Right, it is the weak link through which radical renegades can carry out their attack on the European Union.
People like to imagine Spain as a liberal paradise with sun, sea, and sangría, but its racism continues to be an open secret, according to the Olive Press. With approximately one million Black people living in Spain, that represents about 2% of the population–much lower than the 13-14% of African Americans in the USA. While chances of seeing acts of racism are less and fewer in Spain, entrenched racism is still very real.
In a June 2020 article, the English language Spanish newspaper noted that:
• Every Christmas, locals around the country use black face as they dress up as King Balthazar for the Three Kings Parade, a tradition that goes back to 1885;
• In 2017, a Black British stage actor was refused entry to a Málaga nightclub. A worker at the club later told the Olive Press that it had a “no Blacks” policy;
• “Convinced he was a terrorist,” a Spanish Guardia Civil officer killed an innocent Moroccan man in 2019, veering him off the road and shooting him eleven times as he fled on foot. Sentence for his crime was reduced;
• A Honduras woman selling sweets on the beaches of the Costa del Sol was allegedly strangled and dragged along the floor by police, who told her that she “was not human”;
• Increasingly worrisome is the flagrant racism that continues to be shown by young people in Spain, particularly in the world of football (soccer), where racial slurs are printed on the back of jerseys worn by members of immigrant teams.
It’s impossible for white people to know how gut-wrenching such discrimination feels, but it means that we must rally around and support the likes of Black Lives Matter and similar movements fighting for justice in the USA and, equally important, around the world.
“So, while we may not be in the US, don’t disregard the fight (against racism) as an American problem,” the Olive Press urged. “Tragically, both in Spain and around the world, the fight to end racism will not be over anytime soon.”
# # # # #
Same-sex marriages have been allowed in Portugal since 2010 and offer equal rights to the couple regarding property, taxes, and inheritance … since 2016, married couples of the same sex can adopt and foster children. (Spain legalized same-sex marriage in 2005, along with its adoption rights.)
People often ask us about homophobia: do we feel it or are we aware of it in either Spain or Portugal. Not really, I’d respond. Except for an elderly (90+) woman talking to her equally old, widowed neighbor in Portugal using the term “maricón” simply because she didn’t know any better.
Others, however, have had different experiences.
Attacks by the far-right Vox party on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights are testing years of political consensus on the issue in Spain, which, in 2005, became the third country in the world to allow same-sex marriage. Vox pledged to curtail gay pride parades, heaped ridicule on diversity lessons it wants to scrap in schools and even has drawn parallels between homosexuality and bestiality.
Since the 2005 approval of the same-sex marriage bill by the parties of Spain’s left, center-left, and center-right, even the mainly conservative People’s Party (PP), which vehemently opposed it, has changed tack, helping to defend and approve various bills in defense of LGBT rights. Some of its politicians have come out as gay and married their partners.
Yet, in October 2020, homophobic “slogans” were painted on rainbow benches in Spain’s Costa del Sol.
Bigots in Pilar de la Honrada, a city-town-district of Alicante, smeared ugly graffiti on rainbow-colored benches installed by Pilar’s council to celebrate June’s World Pride Day as an acknowledgement of local LGBTQ residents. Two of the benches were emblazoned with the words “Gays, Get Out.”
“We will … fight this type of violent behavior with the goal of continuing to build a society that is more tolerant of diversity,” said a statement issued by Pilar’s council, as the benches were restored to their original rainbow state.
ILGA-Europe, an LGBTQ advocacy group, released its annual Rainbow Europe Country Ranking, funded by the European Union, which ranks 49 European countries from most to least LGBTQ-friendly. The ranking is based on how the laws and policies of each country affect the lives of LGBTQ people and uses a number of indicators, including nondiscrimination policies, hate speech laws, and asylum rights to create its list.
Of Europe’s ten most LGBTQ-friendly countries, according to ILGA-Europe’s 2021 ranking, Portugal and Spain rank fourth and eighth, respectively.
Lisbon Gay Pride, officially known as Arraial Lisboa Pride, is the largest LGBTQ event in Portugal (followed by Porto’s). It’s an important event that aims to shine a light on the various issues of injustice that still affect the LGBTQ community. A much loved and celebrated event, it attracts huge crowds each year–with over 70,000 visitors attending in 2018.
That said, in a 22 November 2021 article in the daily Journal de Noticias entitled “LGBT Community More Discriminated in the Workplace,” Zulay Costa reported, “Those who deviate from the conventional norms in terms of gender identity and sexual orientation have added difficulties in accessing the labor market and are even more subject to job insecurity.”
The findings are contained in the Council of Europe’s study on diversity in the workplace.
“Candidates who are openly gay are 1.5 times less likely to be asked for an interview, and lesbians are offered a salary 6% lower than heterosexual women. There are cases of insults, harassment, threats, attacks, jokes, and prejudice,” according to the study.
Data from the Fundamental Rights Agency reveal that in 2019, in Portugal, 20% felt discriminated against at work, with the European average being 21%. And Costa’s article goes on to say, “L’Autre Cercie (a French organization working for the inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in the work world) points out that 25% of LGBTQ+ people have suffered at least one attack in their workplace. The situation of transgender people is the most worrying: 43% report having suffered discrimination in their professional life in the last two years, 13% more than lesbian, gay, or bisexual people.”
# # # # #
Attempting to atone for a 500-year-old sin, both Spain and Portugal are offering citizenship to Sephardic Jews whose families were expelled in the 15th century. Historians debate the exact number of Jews expelled; some estimate 40,000, others say 100,000 or more.
Yet Portugal’s government found itself reconsidering the plan to change its “law of return” for Jewish people. The ruling party of Portugal stepped back from an attempt to severely limit applications for citizenship from descendants of Sephardic Jews, a threatened move that Jewish leaders and organizations had charged was anti-Semitic. Members of the Socialist Party submitted a draft amendment to change the 2015 law that grants citizenship to people who can prove they are descended from Jews whose families fled the Iberian Peninsula following the Inquisition, a 15th-century campaign of anti-Semitic persecution in Portugal and Spain.
Under the proposed change, beginning in 2022, only people who had lived in Portugal for two years would be eligible for citizenship. This change would have sharply restricted the number of people who could apply. Currently, there are no requirements for applicants to live in Portugal or learn the language. Experts brought by the Socialist Party testified that within 100 years, a few thousand returning Jews could swell to 250,000 people and pose a demographic threat to Portugal’s identity.
“I felt like I was in a room in the inquisition in Lisbon and they were asking me to prove my Judaism,” said Leon Amiras, a lawyer in Israel who works closely with the Porto Jewish community on applications for citizenship. Although he was not present at the hearing, his personal family story was mentioned. “Suddenly these two members of parliament are testing me and trying to figure out if I’m ‘Jewish enough,’ [to deserve citizenship],” he recalled, as reported by the Times of Israel.
In 2020, Portuguese cartoon artist Vasco Gargalo was criticized for creating an antisemitic political cartoon published in the weekly news magazine Sábado. Media reports were disseminated showing Gargalo’s cartoon, which depicted former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wearing an armband like that of the Nazis, but with a Star of David rather than a swastika on it.
Meanwhile, Spain’s foreign minister condemned a carnival parade featuring gun-toting Nazis and lines of dancing Jewish victims a day after Israel’s ambassador expressed outrage over the spectacle. The display, which also featured a parade float designed like a gas chamber, was the second such incident in the same week, after a Belgian town earned a stiff rebuke from the European Commission.
It feels different now, say immigration lawyers and others who work in the cottage industry of Jews permanently crossing borders. Much of the drive to leave has to do with the prospect of Donald Trump winning reelection in 2024, following a chaotic “Big Lie” post-election period in which he and others continue to dispute the results of the 2020 vote. American Jews, lawyers and advocates say, are chilled by a climate of rising extremism and anti-Semitism, stoked, or condoned by the former president.
The history of bigots linking disease and depressing news with Jews, immigrants, people of color, or other minorities is a long and ugly one. The Holocaust teaches us that in times of instability and fear, people who didn’t previously express or tolerate racist views may find them less offensive … or even appealing.
In one of his most famous sermons, “Loving Your Enemies,” Dr. Martin Luther King preached: “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Hatred and evil, unfortunately, are part of the human condition. Once we shine a light on them, however, they tend to scurry like rats. Thankfully, the incidents mentioned in this article are few and far between. Whether in Portugal or Spain—they’re exceptions, rather than the rule.
It would appear that we are surrounded — swallowed — by lies, untruths, distortions, and alternative realities or interpretations and understandings. Lies come in all shapes and sizes … spread from pulpits, political podiums, and public squares. I’ve selected three here which must be turned on their heads, despite how gigantic and rampant they are.
The Big Lie:
Donald Trump won the USA’s 2020 presidential election; Democrats, dilettantes, and demons conspired to deny and deprive him of office.
The Bigger Lie:
The best defense against bad people with guns is good people with guns.
The Biggest Lie:
The US Constitution guarantees the right of all citizens to have and use guns.
Trump did not win the 2020 election. Umpteen challenges, court cases, recounts, and eye-witness testimonies show quite the contrary: He lost. But he used every tool — from lies to blackmail, conspiracy and terrorism to rile up his followers … which, ultimately, led to the Great Insurrection. On January 6, 2021, a mob of Trump supporter attacked the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., seeking to overturn his defeat by disrupting the joint session of Congress assembled to count electoral votes that would formalize President-elect Joe Biden‘s victory. Yet this heinous moment of American history wasn’t yet over … in fact, Trumpism has been spreading by Trumpsters intent on destroying democracy.
There’s no need for gun control in the USA? Bullshit. The lie propagated by the National Rifle Association advocating for additional guns, not fewer, has become the mantra of the country’s Republican party fed by egregious sums of financial contributions and favors to their campaigns by the NRA. Even as massacres and killings — of children! — continue to rise, politicians blame (other) people rather than the weapons of mass destruction. The height of hypocrisy was only recently reached when politicians like Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Texas Governor Greg Abbott addressed the NRA’s recent annual convention in Texas in the same state and time that a gunman killed 19 school children and two teachers at an elementary school.
“The rate of gun ownership hasn’t changed. And yet acts of evil like we saw this week are on the rise,” Texas Sen. Ted Cruz told crowds at the National Rifle Association’s convention in Houston. Cruz’s claim about stagnant gun ownership (which is factually misleading), is among the trove of inaccurate claims made by GOP officials at the NRA’s annual gathering, making clear that the string of mass shootings in recent weeks has not influenced their pro-gun convictions. On the other side of the world, much as I cringe and cry at loss of lives and homeland during Putin’s war against Ukraine, I can’t help but shudder at the billions of dollars in assembly line armaments sent continuously by the USA to Ukraine. (In the long run, I believe, it will be the sanctions against Russia by a steadfast European community of nations and the Russian people clamoring for change that will be the determining factors for Putin and his enablers’ defeat.)
And the Constitutional basis for bearing arms? I’m neither a historian nor a Constitutional scholar, but I cannot understand how these words upon which rest vigilante injustice and bloodshed aplenty have been interpreted and blessed by the government–executive, legislative, and judicial branches alike.
Second Amendment to the Constitution:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
For decades, the US has been locked in a reckoning over the breadth of the language in this amendment protecting the right to keep and bear arms. But in recent months, national attention has instead shifted to the lesser-considered subject of its first clause: “A well regulated Militia …”
Armed self-described militia members have shown up with growing frequency this summer to racial justice protests held in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police. Their appearance, usually carrying rifles and dressed in military-style gear, has ratcheted up the tension at demonstrations and the risk of confrontation. Militia groups also attended gun rights rallies and demonstrations protesting coronavirus lockdown measures. Militia groups have, for years, argued that their actions are constitutionally protected. But legal analysts say the Constitution does not protect private military groups that are unconnected to or outside the authority of the government. In fact, all 50 states prohibit and restrict private militia groups and militia activity with several different kinds of laws as well as provisions included in most state constitutions.
If militias can be defined and defended these ways, is there any doubt that legislators and courts will accede to “pro-life” group demands to do away with abortion, denying women control over their own bodies? Or that same-sex marriage and adoptions will be redacted (at best) or overturned (at worst)? And that even issues concerning data privacy will be applied?
This is an unprecedented time we live in. We are living through climate change, a pandemic on pause, and an international conflict that has the potential to turn global. People around the world are struggling with conflicts and atrocities, at times due to the American military’s involvement, while hundreds more are dealing with increasingly dangerous heat waves as a result of the climate crisis. Still, others are trying to face the consequences of the pandemic, including the devastation left behind due to the loss of lives and the increasing financial insecurity that continues to widen the inequality gap between the struggling and the affluent. War in Ukraine wages on with what seems like no end in sight, while the Pentagon discusses options of US involvement in the fight against Russia.
This regression of rights in the democratic nation which has claimed countlessly throughout history to “spread democracy into the world” seems beyond ironic and hypocritical.
Although an ordained pastor, I’m certainly no Bible literalist. But when the same words are repeated nine separate times in one book (Deuteronomy) of Hebrew Testament Law and echoed at least once in the Christian Testament (I Corinthians 5:13), it’s time to take note:
You must purge the evil from among you.
I doubt that any of us disagrees about the importance of ridding ourselves and our society of evil; the problem arises because of our different values, beliefs, and interpretations of what constitutes “evil.”
In terms of the nine commands in Deuteronomy to remove evil, such “evils” are said to include liars (false witnesses); children who are stubborn, rebellious, gluttons and drunkards; idolaters; kidnapping and human trafficking; purity, unity, and promiscuity; showing contempt for judges and priests; prophets and dreamers advocating rebellion against God; and God’s so-called jealousy.
Moreover, Deuteronomy 17 describes three apparently disconnected aspects of justice:
How to handle an allegation of idolatry. (Verses 2-7)
How to handle a case that is too difficult for the local court. (Verses 8-13)
How to ensure a king remains humble and accountable to God. (Verses 18-20)
I say “apparently” because they are connected by more than the overall theme of justice. For example, the sequence illustrates the roles and responsibilities of various members of the nation as their relative authority increases. The picture begins with individuals, moves to the community, then to the nation, and finally to the king.
Let’s be clear: In the early hours of 24 February, Russia launched a wide-ranging attack on Ukraine, hitting cities and civilians with airstrikes and shelling. As a result, thousands of innocent people piled into trains and cars to flee the unprovoked aggression, while Russian tanks and troops continued to roll across the border launching a “full-scale war” that could rewrite the geopolitical order of the region.
At the request of the Ukrainian authorities, Portugal agreed to provide military equipment such as vests, helmets, night vision goggles, grenades and ammunition of different calibers, complete portable radios, analogue repeaters and G3 automatic rifles.
Speaking at a televised news conference, Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa said that the country would be sending 175 military reinforcements to help Ukrainian soldiers on the ground secure their borders as this “is a war against the freedom of self-determination of a democratic country and therefore it is also a war against … democracy.”
“It’s been reported that close to 1,800 additional Portuguese military could be mobilized to take part in NATO’s dissuasive mission within allied countries on Ukraine’s borders. The soldiers will be made up of contingents from all three arms of the military (Air Force, Navy and Army),” reported the Portuguese Journal American. “In a second phase, another 472 military could be dispatched, along with 36 tactical vehicles and two Naval war ships.”
In addition, the United States has been reinforcing its use of Portugal’s Lajes military air base on Terceira island in the Azores, including storage and maintenance of munitions and explosives.
Ukrainians in Portugal, the second-largest foreign community in Portugal, are living in fear for their family and friends back home.
Citizens, residents, and expats of one of the world’s most peaceful nations expressed their frustration and anger, decrying Russian President Putin’s decimation of the world order.
Outside the Russian embassy in Lisbon, thousands of demonstrators held signs and waved flags to protest the Russian invasion and Portugal’s solidarity with the Ukrainian people. Additional protests in Porto and Algarve called for military support from European countries to Ukraine, as well as urged the Portuguese to not purchase products from Russia.
“Portugal supports Ukraine, which is defending itself against an unjustified, illegal, and unacceptable invasion,” Defense Minister João Cravinho tweeted.
On behalf of Portugal, Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva also expressed his solidarity with Ukraine and condemnation of Moscow:
“We have to be prepared for all scenarios. I am sorry to say it, but I cannot say anything else: today we have to work with all scenarios on the table because what is happening is that Putin’s action is not only exceeding his words, but Putin’s action at every moment is also exceeding the maximum that we had foreseen as possible …”
Santos Silva remarked that “whatever the objective” of the Russian offensive, “it is illegitimate, it is illegal, and it is condemnable,” describing it as “the biggest security crisis that Europe has gone through since World War II.”
Prime Minister Antonio Costa condemned the Russian invasion, adding that any Ukrainians who have family, friends, and acquaintances in Portugal are welcome in Portugal. Instructions to facilitate visas to those feeling the Russian invasion were given to embassies in Ukraine, as well as neighboring countries. The Portuguese Embassy in Ukraine urged Portuguese citizens in Ukraine to leave through European Union borders, particularly enroute to Romania or Moldova.
“While refugees are usually allowed in Portugal through a case-by-case analysis of the danger each applicant faces, the government acknowledged that all refugees from Ukraine are facing dangerous conditions,” wrote Lara Silva in Portugal.com. “The only reason someone might be denied asylum is if they have committed crimes against humanity or serious crimes, according to the Minister of Internal Administration and Justice, Francisca Van Dunem.”
Unclear whether any changes will be made to the Portugal Golden Visa, “the war in Ukraine is likely to affect Portugal’s state budget for 2022,” Silva predicted. The Prime Minister, however, said it was too early to assess whether this is the case; some Portuguese economists, however, have stated that it will – directly and indirectly – impact the state budget:
“Oil and natural gas prices will continue to skyrocket, as Russia is one of the main energy suppliers to European countries. GDP is also likely to decrease in Portugal and there could be increased military spending attributed to the budget, depending on the course of the conflict.”
The Foreigners and Border Service previously announced that it would stop the Golden Visa scheme for Russian citizens. In addition, Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva stressed that more Russian citizens inn Portugal would be subject to sanctions.
“SEF has suspended the appreciation of any dossier of candidacy for authorization of residency through investment, commonly known as golden visas, for Russian citizens,” he pointed out.
In addition, Santos Silva stressed that the scheme was also suspended for citizens from Belarus.
According to Portugal’s Immigration and Border Service (SEF) data, investment from citizens from Russia brought a total of €277.8 million to Portugal’s economy in the nine years since the program was created.
With a view to receiving refugees from Ukraine, Portugal’s government recently published in the Diário da República the amendment to an ordinance that regulates the regime for granting temporary protection to refugees. In a press conference after an extraordinary Council of Ministers, the Minister of Social Security announced that Ukrainians who arrive in Portuguese territory “are guaranteed to stay regular,” being immediately assigned a user number of the National Health Service, Social Security number, and Tax Identification Number (NIF).
The official also announced that the Institute for Employment and Vocational Training (IEFP) has created a “task-force” “to accompany people in a personalized way and manage to find ways of real integration,” through accommodation and a platform where companies will be able to upload job offers.
According to the Minister of Justice and Internal Administration Francisca Van Dunem as quoted by CNN Portugal’s Barbara Cruz, the regime will have an initial duration of one year, renewable for two periods of six months “provided that conditions are maintained that prevent people from returning” to Ukraine.
Although no one in the West is quite sure what Putin’s intentions are, a weakening or breakup of the European Union is suspected of being one of his primary goals, says Len Port, a journalist and author based in the Algarve who writes for the Portugal Resident.
“Fortunately for Portugal, unlike much of the rest of Europe, it is not dependent on natural gas supplies from Russia, which it is feared the Kremlin might be using as a weapon in the current stalemate. Portugal’s gas originates in Algeria, Nigeria, and the US,” Port wrote on 26 January.
Nonetheless, Portugal has concerns even though it is the most distant EU country from Ukraine and, thus, perhaps the least vulnerable should dialogue fail. It is situated more than 3,000 km west of Ukraine. In past years, top Russian warships have passed along Portugal’s coast, at times as close as 26 nautical miles from the Algarve’s shores.
“As distant as it is, defence minister João Gomes Cravinho told his 26 EU counterparts at a meeting … in Brest, France, that he was delighted with the ‘absolute refusal’ by all EU member states to give in to Russia’s attempts to divide the Union by threatening Ukraine,” Port added.
“It’s clear that Russia’s attitudes seek to divide–divide the Europeans and divide the Europeans from the North American,” claimed the defense minister. He described it as “a very worrying situation that must be dealt with firmly, with a clear purpose, and in unity among all Europeans.”
The President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, thanked his Portuguese counterpart, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, for the support Portugal has provided to Ukraine.
Zelensky said on Twitter that he spoke to Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, whom he thanked for the closure of Portuguese airspace to Russian planes, Portugal’s support in excluding Russia from the Swift international interbank platform, and for “concrete defence assistance.”
The Ukrainian head of state called the President of the Republic, who reiterated Portugal’s “strong condemnation” of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and “solidarity support for the courageous Ukrainian resistance,” according to a note published in official website of the Portuguese Presidency.
Portugal also aims to accelerate its energy transition and increase the proportion of renewable sources by 20 percentage points to 80 per cent of its electricity output by 2026, four years earlier than previously planned, a transition that is being accelerated after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” according to a 2 April report by Reuters.
Unlike central European countries, Portugal does not depend on Russian natural gas pipelines, as it mainly imports liquefied natural gas from Nigeria and the USA, not importing Russian crude since 2020.Committed to become carbon-neutral by 2050, Portugal currently gets 60 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources—one of the largest proportions of green energy in Europe.
Elsewhere, Pope Francis prayed for peace in Ukraine in a ceremony that harkened back to a century-old apocalyptic prophecy about peace and Russia sparked by purported visions of the Virgin Mary to three peasant children in Fatima, Portugal, in 1917.
The pontiff invited faithful from around the world to join him in the prayer, which opened with Francis entering St. Peter’s Basilica before an estimated 3,500 people and concluded with him sitting alone before a statue of the Madonna. There, he solemnly asked forgiveness that humanity had forgotten the lessons learned from the tragedies of the last century, the sacrifice of the millions who fell in two World Wars,” noted Nicole Winfield for the Associated Press.
“Free us from war, protect our world from the menace of nuclear weapons,” the pope prayed.
The service was Francis’ latest effort to rally prayers for an end to the war while keeping open options for dialogue with the Russian Orthodox Church and its influential leader, Patriarch Kirill. “Francis has yet to publicly condemn Russia by name for its invasion, though his denunciations of the war in Ukraine have grown increasingly outraged,” observed Winfield.
A couple of months ago, I received a private message from a Facebook friend who had stayed with us for a few days about four years ago, when we first moved to Portugal.
I had almost forgotten how much he got on our nerves back then, despite being a rather friendly, outgoing, boisterous American.
How best to explain how we felt around him? Try this, especially if you remember vinyl records and their players: Since moving to Portugal, our lives have been running at a comfortable 33 RPM; after spending a couple of hours with him, we rotated faster and faster, spinning at 78 RPM.
Anyway, he was returning to Portugal to reconnoiter places he hadn’t been to in planning his eventual relocation here, and wanted to see us and stay with us again.
But we had downsized and our home was too small for someone with such an oversize personality … along with me, my spouse and our three Miniature Schnauzers.
So, I tried to explain (gently) the situation in messages flying back and forth through cyberspace between us.
“I promise not to get in your way,” he wrote in a hodge-podge of upper and lower case letters, with — let’s call them typos — when I actually suspected they were spelling errors and a lack of care (speed was of the essence) that many of us take when writing emails, sending messages, and posting online. “I can crash on your couch, no worries!” he continued.
“No,” I replied. “That just won’t work. But we’ll be happy to find you a hotel or B&B nearby.” There are a couple of really charming small hotels we’ve stayed at right in central, downtown Castelo Branco. But he wanted to stay closer to us.
The offer wasn’t mentioned as he signed off and logged out, telling me that he’d be in touch when the date of his travel approached. I received one email when he landed in Porto from Amsterdam, informing us that he’d come visit us in Castelo Branco either on Wednesday evening or Thursday afternoon. A second email arrived Wednesday afternoon, saying that he was taking the “scenic” route and should be at our place by 18h00 (6 PM).
“Have you made reservations somewhere?” I replied, before informing my partner that we’d be having company for dinner. “No, not yet,” he answered, asking if I could find him either a low-cost hotel or B&B in our town. I knew there were no hotels (yet) in Alcains; so, I researched AirBnB and other sites listing home-style lodging. There were two right here in Alcains that appeared to be clean, comfortable, easily accessible, and reasonably priced (US $49 per night). I sent him links to the properties, along with a “pin” to our house.
A new message from him suddenly appeared: “I’m here!”
Though not particularly tall, he loomed large in our Portuguese doorway, casting shadows from the street light overhead. Reaching in to shake hands, he switched to bear hugs while our dogs tried to sneak past us and out the front door.
“Come on in and have a seat,” I greeted him, pointing to the sofa with chaise in our hobbit house living room. “Can I get you some wine?”
Over the course of the next three hours — including a homemade meatloaf dinner with corn, mashed potatoes, gravy, and biscuits on the side — we learned reasons why we had nothing in common beyond Facebook friendship as he rapidly told us too much about his life:
• This was his seventh trip in four years to Portugal. Two were with his wife. This and four other visits, he had come around to scout areas and properties.
• His plan was to move to and retire in Portugal … four and a half years from now. He expected to live off the rental income generated by two houses he owned in the USA. The four-plus years took into account his wife’s time required before retiring from her job with the state’s government. He still had no idea where in Portugal they wanted to live (except that it had to be considerably cooler in the summers than where we are), but envisioned renting, not buying, for six-months to one-year intervals. Then, they’d move somewhere else. For this he needed to make seven trips four and a half years before being able to move here?
• Not only didn’t he wear a mask in the street (still advised by Portuguese law) or asked if we’d prefer to put them on in our tight dwelling, but he stated, matter-of-factly, that neither he nor his wife had been vaccinated (“Except for my mother taking me for a polio shot when I was a kid, I’ve never been vaccinated for anything–not even the flu.”). Both of them had come down with Covid (“the worst … very painful … aspirin and Ibuprofin only made it worse … still,I went to the gym almost every afternoon to work out, because it made me feel better … until I crashed, later each night.”). My dander was rising: He had had Covid, wasn’t vaccinated, didn’t wear a mask, and was in our faces–literally! Not particularly up on travel conditions and restrictions, I wondered how he had been able to fly from the USA to the Netherlands and onto Portugal, given his history. No idea.
• Although he had booked a room for the night, texting while driving high in the Serra da Estrella mountains, he hadn’t bothered to pull off the road and check the owner’s check-in times and requirements. It wasn’t until nearly 11PM (23h) that we suggested he make the call. Speaking in English to his mobile device, it recorded his voice and saved it as text … which he then used Google Translate to create a Portuguese message that he sent to his host. “No problem,” he recounted, assuredly, saying that the proprietor only wanted to know how soon he’d be arriving there. Russ and I looked at each other and jointly declared, “Within 15 minutes.” We still had to clean up, wash all the dishes, and deal with the dogs, before retiring for the evening ourselves.
“Thank you, gentlemen, for a terrific evening,” he said as he was leaving. “What are your plans for tomorrow … and the day after. I finished the northern part of my journey early, so I’m not in any rush to move on.”
“We’re working!” my partner and I echoed in unison.
“Well, at least you have to let me take you to lunch tomorrow,” he said while re-lacing his shoes by the door. “Just pick a place and send me the link. What time’s good for you two? How about one o’clock?”
We nodded numbly.
Three private messages on Facebook: (1) a thumbs up when we sent him the name and location of the restaurant where we’d meet for lunch; (2) a “sorry, running a bit late …” just as we locked up the house and headed to our car; and (3) “never mind, all is good, I’ll be there at one.” He arrived at 1:25. No big deal. It’s Portugal and we were enjoying glasses of wine.
Translating the nine items offered at the cafeteria-snack bar-restaurant from Portuguese to English, we ordered. Rather, I did. Russ can understand some Portuguese when spoken; but he’d rather that someone else speak it. Our luncheon companion had a hard enough time asking for “mais pão,” after grabbing and grubbing most of the bread in the basket.
Again, the subject came up about our plans for the rest of the day (and the day after).
From there, the final nails of our “friendship” coffin were driven:
• He had voted for Trump (“he’s a businessman, not politician”) in 2016; in 2020, he didn’t vote. For anyone. Blind to the monsters #45 had created, he was right in pointing out the divisiveness spreading around the world, but wrong, I believe, in the reasons.
• The television in the restaurant was showing a caravan of Portuguese ambulances, fire trucks, and other red vehicles headed to support Ukraine. Which opened another can of worms. He didn’t know — or understand — the differences between NATO and the European Union, believing it was up to the European Union to take up arms for Ukraine, not the USA.
• Nor did he understand how impeachment works in the government of the United States, insisting over and again that Trump hadn’t been impeached. Neither once nor twice. Because, he maintained, that when the Senate didn’t ratify or concur with the House’s indictment, it effectively erased those impeachments from the record. “No, that’s not how it works,” I explained. Once impeached, always impeached. It doesn’t go away–regardless of how the Senate votes. His impeachments will always be recognized.” Flabbergasted, he asked, “So that means Clinton also was impeached?” Yes it does.
Russ and I glanced at each other, kicking each other’s shins not to get further entangled.
Anyway, it was about closing time for the restaurant and we were the last ones left seated, as the owners cleaned tables and picked up chairs, sweeping beneath them before placing them on top of the tables. Catching the owner’s eye, I mouthed, “A conta, por favor.” Within minutes, a handwritten receipt showing €27.50 was handed to me (after all, I was the one who spoke Portuguese and did the ordering). Our acquaintance pulled an American Express card out of his wallet and handed it to the proprietor, who shook his head and pointed to a sign taped to the wall: cash only, no plastic cards. Honestly, I hadn’t known. I pulled thirty euros out of my wallet, gritting my teeth in the process. “I would use the ATM and get cash,” offered our (now former) Facebook friend, “but I’m having trouble with my PIN.” Determined to let me know that he wanted to make good on his promise to pay for our lunch, he asked me whether he could pay in British pounds. He had £25 in his wallet. “Doubtful,” I said. Russ thought he’d have to go to the airport to exchange them for euros, while I thought one of the local banks might accept the currency and hand him euros in the process. Whatever.
As we left and said our goodbyes to each other, I could tell that Russ was really annoyed.
“How many times has he been to Portugal? Seven? How do you come to Portugal without euros and only one credit card that’s not working? How did he buy all the junk food that he’s been eating in the car? How many pit stops and mini-mercados accept credit cards, let alone American Express? You can be Facebook friends with him, if you want,” Russ said. “But I’m unfriending him as soon as we get home. My hands are still shaking from the past 18 hours!”
What more could I say? I felt the same way. Catching his hand under the umbrella as we walked the three or four blocks to where we’d parked our car, my heart overflowed with love and gratitude for my partner who always put others first. How fortunate — blessed! — I have been to live with him for 30 years and move to Portugal together.
“I love you,” I said. “I love you, too,” he replied.
It’s good to know that we still have so much in common.