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Peace of my heart. (don't get me started).

Since the memo went out that war is not a gay issue, I decided to give peace a chance by showing up for the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil. The international gathering, themed "Another World Is Possible," was so fabulous that I was able to maintain the fantasy of world peace all the way to the Sao Paulo airport, where I got into a near-altercation over a TV remote in the business class lounge of Varig Airlines.

At the World Social Forum's opening march, we found the gay contingent under the rainbow flag amid red and white union flags, red Workers Party flags, and Brazil's blue, green, and yellow national flag. In the past I've made fun of rainbow towels, key chains, condoms, dildos. I admit it. Swallow a prism, shit a rainbow! But it is such a helpful signifier in a foreign land. On Ipanema Beach in Rio de Janeiro, a huge rainbow flag marked the gayted community among the thousands of umbrellas. (It's hard to be gayer than Rio, but Brazilian gays manage thanks to flirtation and rainbow crochet.)

Near the gay contingent marched the feminists, pronounced "femineeshtas." I think more U.S. women would identify as such if it were that much fun to say in English. They wore oversized lip masks over their mouths, and their signs read YOUR MOUTH IS FUNDAMENTAL. In other words, it's fundamental to speak out against fundamentalisms: Christian, fascist, recast, sexist, pugilist, or homophobic.

They should know. Agar 40 years of dictatorship by the rich or the military or both, the country had, by a 61% majority, elected, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of the Workers Party as Brazil's new president. Nearly all the people we talked to about Lula were optimistic. More important, they said, "We will help him."

No doubt the World Social Forums had energized Brazilians to work for the improbable election of Lula. The forums began three years ago when two Brazilian academics were kvetching about the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland--where corporate barons meet to tackle world poverty but rarely seem to ask the input of the poor. These disgruntled Brazilians decided to organize their own event. The first year, the World Social Forum attracted 20,000 people. The second year brought 50,000; this year, 100,000.

And now Lula had actually been invited to speak at Davos. Before he left on a night flight for the snow and ice of Switzerland, he spoke to a sweating late-afternoon crowd of 200,000 in a huge open-air field. Backpack-bearing youths crammed together down in front. On the periphery, elders on three-pronged canes shielded their eyes against the sun. I stood near a sophisticated pod of gays, all in face-fitting sunglasses. One graciously leaned in and translated when our meager Portuguese failed.

With no hail-to-the-chief fanfare or gasbag intros, Lula took the microphone. In a voice etched with years of smoke and oratory, he laid out before a skeptical crowd his reasons for going to Davos. All without a TelePrompTer. The crowd strained to follow his image, bleached out on the daylit Jumbotrons. They seemed to follow with ease the history and rhetoric of his argument.

Lula concluded that he would tell the conferees at Davos the same firings he had told us: that his first goal was to feed people, that the goal of all political work is happiness, that Brazil stands for peace. I glanced at my urbane translator at one point, and tears were streaming down from the wraparounds.

The next day, as we waited for our plane to New York, my girlfriend was jonesing for a glimpse of the Super Bowl. She politely asked each person in the lounge if it would be all right to turn from the Animal Planet special to the game. All agreed except for one slouching, groggy traveler. He held the remote control.

I couldn't tell if he was being a jerk because we were Americans, women, or lesbians or because American football wasn't really futbol, but I wanted to preemptively strike him silly. My gal pal gave me a "How soon we forget" look. I still wanted to put the "fist" in "pacifist." Time to review that memo.
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Title Annotation:author attends World Social Forum, Porto Alegre, Brazil
Author:Clinton, Kate
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Column
Geographic Code:3BRAZ
Date:Apr 1, 2003
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