Two of the police officers sent to repress a demonstration that took place recently in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, abandoned their posts and joined protesters who protested against cuts in public expenditure and inhuman changes in labor laws, accompanied by the privatization of huge state-owned enterprises. They lowered their weapons, put the bayonet away, and, probably for the first time in their lives, traded arms for reason. They looked at the protesters and didn’t have the shamelessness of their commanders to attack ladies and gentlemen, public servants, nurses, teachers, doctors, elevator operators, clerks, retirees. People who cheer for Flamengo and Mangueira, people who gave their lives and blood for public service, who were never paid for overtime hours and have no Guarantee Fund, people who never had a career plan, who spent their lives between off-white walls and aged stamps.
The soldiers, Republicans and Democrats, couldn’t keep up with the orders that came to their ears. Let the mother fucker burn¹ screamed a white male American soldier in Iraq, directly to the camera lines, in the most touching scene in Michael Moore’s documentary² about the Iraq war. The world must spin madly fast on the head of the soldier who is ordered to invest against the one who, in fact, is also his neighbor, his relative, his friend, his teacher or the teacher of his daughter, his son. The captain, the lieutenant, the major, the colonel, whoever ordered you to beat, shoot with rubber bullets, bombs of moral effect, why doesn’t he do it himself, right?
If the order is manifestly illegal, my friend, you are not obligated to comply. If in front of you there are peaceful gentlemen, terrified that an elitist and fraudulent government robs them of their last money, if there are honest people in front of you asking them to give back what will be stolen, nothing exists that forces you to attack them. I’m proud of these soldiers, I have pride in this desertion, I just wanted to hug them. And think that in Rio de Janeiro, hundreds will be the lawyers who will rise to defend them (yes, they were arrested, of course). Millions of Brazilians thank their heroic desertion.
The Republican soldiers who marched to the Republic and abandoned brutality and ignorance certainly wouldn’t be those stupefied by the media who invaded the National Congress asking for military intervention. The interventionists are “homesick” for that Brazil of pau-de-arara³, electroshocks, torture sessions with rats being inserted in vaginas and anuses, the Ustras⁴ that have suffocated us. They are not dishonest, they are not scoundrels, not people of bad character. They are just ordinary people stupefied and fanaticized by extremism, conservatism and violence.
The courageous and republican desertion gives us hope that something is moving, that something is happening, that some seed has germinated, so important that its name hasn’t been disclosed.
The policemen who refused to obey the order were, most of all, great people. To them, my absolute respect.
¹Song Fire Water Burn, by Bloodhound Gang.
²Michael moore’s documentary Fahrenheit 9/11.
³Pau-de-arara is a method of torture that was widely used in Brazil during the period of Military Dictatorship. Consists of an iron or wood bar that is crossed between the tied wrists and the folds behind the knees, the ‘set’ being placed between two tables, the body of the tortured being hung about 20 or 30 centimeters from the ground. This method is almost never used alone, its normal ‘complements’ are electroshocks, beating and drowning.
⁴Reference to Colonel Ustra, who was the first officer recognized by justice as torturer and commander of a police station accused of being the scene of more than 40 murders and of at least 500 cases of torture during the Military Dictatorship in Brazil.