Armistice Day 2018 woolgathering

Brazil’s war dead.

Since I have been harsh on the citizens of Brazil for their crass irresponsibility in electing Jair Bolsonaro, I’d like to recall a time when Brazil did the right thing. In August 1942, Brazil declared war on the Axis. 1,600 Brazilian sailors drowned in sinkings by U-boats during the conflict, and as many again in an undeclared naval war before it was made official. 948 soldiers of the 25,000-strong expeditionary force sent to Italy died in combat. (I’m not sure I am reading the Wikipedia article right on casualties, there may be some double counting. )

Brazil’s entry into the war resulted from strong American pressure, aided by the German own goal of U-boat attacks on merchant shipping when Brazil was still technically neutral. It was preceded by other Latin American countries: Cuba and the Dominican Republic (after Pearl Harbor); Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua in January 1942. Colombia and Bolivia followed in 1943. Still, it wasn’t a foregone conclusion, given Vargas’ quasi-fascist ideology, and Brazil’s military contribution was much the largest of any Latin America country.

The episode is remembered in Brazil, though it obviously does not loom large in the national myth. There is a rather bland but okay monument to the Brazilian war dead on Flamengo Beach in Rio.

So: Obrigado. There was a time when Brazil did the right thing, and 4,000 of its young men and women paid the price to join a very big club. If they play football (soccer) in the Elysian Fields, you can guess who wins.

A sea of 888,246 ceramic poppies at the Tower of London, one for each British, Irish and colonial servicemen killed in WWI. The only possible objection is that the artists Paul Cummins and Tom Piper did not find a way to bring in the roughly equal number of young Germans and Turks who died fighting them. A sea of black poppies?

Princess Elizabeth, 19, at work

While we are on the subject, guess where Queen Elizabeth of England etc etc was today? Showing up at the Cenotaph in Whitehall. The way she has shown up for work pretty much every day since she drove an Army truck in 1945. The famous tea at Windsor

Queen Elizabeth, 92, at work

Castle with Donald Trump does not seem to have taught him anything about the concepts of “dignity”, “duty”, “example”, and “showing up” as they apply to Heads of State. There is no photo of Donald Trump in the rain at Belleau Wood.

Author: James Wimberley

James Wimberley (b. 1946, an Englishman raised in the Channel Islands. three adult children) is a former career international bureaucrat with the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. His main achievements there were the Lisbon Convention on recognition of qualifications and the Kosovo law on school education. He retired in 2006 to a little white house in Andalucia, His first wife Patricia Morris died in 2009 after a long illness. He remarried in 2011. to the former Brazilian TV actress Lu Mendonça. The cat overlords are now three. I suppose I've been invited to join real scholars on the list because my skills, acquired in a decade of technical assistance work in eastern Europe, include being able to ask faux-naïf questions like the exotic Persians and Chinese of eighteenth-century philosophical fiction. So I'm quite comfortable in the role of country-cousin blogger with a European perspective. The other specialised skill I learnt was making toasts with a moral in the course of drunken Caucasian banquets. I'm open to expenses-paid offers to retell Noah the great Armenian and Columbus, the orange, and university reform in Georgia. James Wimberley's occasional publications on the web

4 thoughts on “Armistice Day 2018 woolgathering”

  1. RBC sounding very nationalistic and monarchist, today. When is the eulogy for Franscisco Franco scheduled to be posted?

    1. Thank you for this, Mr. Wimberly. Esp. for the pics of Elizabeth. She’s not our monarch, but she -is- an example.

  2. chetmurphy: Thanks. She’s not been perfect – the Firm’s handling of Diana was a fiasco from engagement to funeral – but overall she’s been an advertisement for the British monarchy.
    It is of course entirely possible to get good Heads of State in a republic, as in Ireland. Germany has alternated between distinguished Presidents – Weiszaecker, Gauck – and undistinguished but reputable hacks. Most American Presidents (and their wives) have been okay on the symbolic functions, but not Trump.
    RonWarrick: get lost.

  3. Hello James!

    This reminded me of something. Unfortunately I couldn’t find it, but … there was a piece (I think in the LA Times) a while back that speculated that it might have been better if the US hadn’t entered WWI. I was wondering what you thought. (I don’t understand WWI but I guess it is turning out I’m not the only one.) It is early morning… now I am wondering, did I already ask you this before? if so, apologies!

    Oh, also the LAT, this past weekend.

    I hate to blame my history teachers because it is much more likely I just forgot, but, I found this interesting too. Also mind you … the LAT op-ed page can be quite wacky.

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