That's the quote from 1984 by George Orwell that this white pastor says flashed into his mind and stayed there as he was stopped, harassed, tazed, beaten, and handcuffed by agents of the Department of Homeland Security and Arizona police, 50 miles from the border.
Here's the video of the incident. Warning, it is violent and horrifying.
The reason I am bringing this here, though, is this excerpt from the sermon he preached the next morning, after this incident. His name is Steven Anderson and he is a baptist pastor in Arizona.
WARNING: the sermon is NOT anti-racist. It contains at least three blatantly racist comments, and a whole ton of white privilege-informed rhetoric.
In the sermon excerpt is this duality, in which this white man is struggling on the one hand with a passionate love for America, and especially his picture of America as a free country. He is outraged that this could happen to him in this free country that he loves. His picture of America as a free country, though, is closely tied to his picture of other countries as not free.
This experience has not (yet?) brought Anderson to question his picture of America as a free country. He has just personally experienced how very not free Americans are. He talks about the insanity of using 9/11 to justify the destruction of liberties that has happened since then. He screams about the inhumanity of uniformed thugs who beat the shit out of him and then laughed about it, mocking him and telling him he could have avoided all of this if he had just answered their questions.
I found out about this because I subscribe to Alphacat on YouTube, and in his entry about it Alphacat links to the Michael Moore mockumentary where Moore went to Harlem after Amadou Diallo was murdered by four New York City police officers who claimed they mistook the wallet in his hand for a gun. So Iman Crosson, aka Alphacat, clearly and immediately makes the connection between the way this man was treated and the way people of color are treated by the police.
But Steven Anderson is not there. He is locked in the contradiction of his own experience of brutality at the hands of his government, and his need to believe his country is "free." He cites the 4th and 5th amendments. But he also talks about the sacrifice of U.S. military personnel to keep America free. And as evidence of America's status as a free country, he talks about China's one-child laws, and people in Africa starving. So does that status depend on ongoing characterizations of other countries as not-free? And is "free" a euphemism for "superior?" If it is, can he ever get from his outrage to an understanding that what he just experienced has always been the reality of people of color?
I was angered and moved and saddened by the video of him getting attacked by Homeland Security and Arizona police. There was no audio to the surveillance tapes, so he played "Finlandia" in the background, which we Methodist folks know as the tune to this song:
This is my song, O God of all the nations,
a song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is;
here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine;
but other hearts in other lands are beating
with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine
That hymn always chokes me up in church anyway, so to hear it as I was watching Homeland Security thugs beat someone up because he wouldn't answer their questions was powerful. As I am sure Anderson knew it would be.
As I was writing this I pulled up my friends page and saw stoneself's posting of Buffy Sainte-Marie's history lesson. And I am asking myself whether Anderson's experience, and the experience by white people of post-9/11 rise in totalitarian tactics by the government -- can this get us to accepting the truth of what Sainte-Marie is singing, and acting on that truth now?
I am a white middle class woman who grew up in the suburbs. I only became aware of how much I love "my home, the country where my heart is" when I started seeing it the hypocrisy Sainte-Marie sings about. When we invaded Iraq, when the Department of Homeland Security was created, when the pictures from Abu-Ghraib came out, when the stories from Guantanamo came out, when Bush refused to sign treaties against torture.
Before then, I heard songs like Sainte-Marie is singing, and I knew in my head she was telling the truth, but emotionally I rejected it because she was attacking something I didn't even know I felt -- love for my home, the country where my heart is.
So my purpose in bringing it here is to highlight how much Anderson's experience and reactions are like mine, and maybe open discussion with others about how much our need to love our country (and ourselves?) gets in the way of accepting the truth of what POC say about their experiences.
(xposted to my eljay and dreamwidth)