The first thing you notice when you wake up in the American suburbs is what’s missing – the music of modern life. There is no cracking in the gears of a better school bus, nor is there an increasing groan from the engine of an airplane over the pilot as he approaches Washington National Airport. The whine of an ambulance siren can take you to a dark place.
For all the images of the reopening of beaches and demonstrators without masks demanding their freedoms, the most remarkable aspect of the American quasi-locking is how complete it is: from this weekend, more than 97% of Americans were under some kind of confinement and most of them comply. Nothing like this has ever happened on such a large scale in American history.
But if infections slow down, it will be harder and harder for mayors and governors to keep people off the streets – especially as the economic pain stings deeper and the President acclaims its reopening. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo warned that it was only “half time”. But he and other local leaders know that adhering to any timetable always depends on the goodwill of a critical mass of citizens.
Meanwhile in Brazil …
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro cannot literally keep his mouth shut. On Sunday, he coughed several times while addressing supporters during a maskless rally. Earlier this month, he was photographed wiping his nose with the back of his hand before shaking the hand of an elderly woman. Last month, a newspaper featured a front page photo of him salivating while he spoke.
But for his critics, the biggest problem is what he says. Bolsonaro repeatedly clashed with state governors as they closed schools, suspended public transportation, and shut down all but essential businesses to try to contain the deadly coronavirus.
The president hailed the protesters as “patriots” and said their freedom should be guaranteed. “These are the people who are in power,” he said.
Faced with a growing contraction on Monday, Bolsonaro defended his participation in the rally, saying he had not personally called for the dismantling of other branches of government. “Usually when people conspire against someone it is to reach a position of power,” he said. “I am already in power. I am already president.”