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The Truth and Havre, Montana


Canada and US Friendship Center in Havre, Montana Credit: James. G. Howes/Wikipedia/Creative Commons

Canada and US Friendship Center in Havre, Montana Credit: James. G. Howes/Wikipedia/Creative Commons

Recently, an US border patrol agent stopped two women at a convenience store in Havre, Montana and asked for their IDs. The women were not happy about this and made a video of their conversation with a cell phone. The officer was polite and explained that he stopped the women because they were speaking Spanish, and the Spanish language was almost never spoken in the region.

This story went viral for a few days, and the women are still angry and they are talking about legal action.

In the articles by journalists, there have been many comments about the lack of ethnic diversity in Montana and that everyone speaks English, as if that is offensive. There are also hints that Havre is a small backwater where police stop people, in an offensive way, because they are “different” from the natives. The word “redneck” fits that narrative.

The story is popular because it fits a popular narrative about left and right-wing politics and illegal immigration or undocumented migration. The choice of words shows what side of the argument we are on, and the name of Donald Trump is included in most news stories about the incident, which is another clue.

The actual story has become a small illustration for a huge political debate. I don’t think anyone really cares that two women had to show their IDs in a parking lot. They were delayed for a few minutes, but they produced a video with a cell phone, and that will stay with us for many years. People care about the propaganda value of the video.

The truth is, we all speak our native language and no-one consulted us about our skin color before we were born. People in Montana are not bad or racist just because they act like everyone else in the world, and Havre has a population of about 9,000; it’s not really a small town. And this is important; Havre, Montana is located just south of the Canadian border, on the prairies, near Alberta and Saskatchewan. Do I need to tell you that the prairies stretch out for many miles in all directions there and the Canada-US border is long and empty on the prairies.

I live north of Montana, in Alberta, and I like dry places with cows. That may not be your taste, but did you know that the border between Canada and the US is the longest undefended border in the world, and this is becoming a problem? We might need to start defending. In my employment and in my neighborhood, I often meet people who probably don’t have visas or residence papers. It’s not my business to question them, but we know that there is a high volume of smuggling and human trafficking through that enormous undefended border. Apparently, the traffic flows in both directions. “tourists” on one side often become illegal residents on the other side, and sometimes truck drivers get caught with drugs and other contraband. This might be described as organized crime.

If you are wondering, I sympathize with the two women who were stopped. I would be annoyed if that happened to me. On second thought, I have been questioned near the border and my ID has been checked, and I didn’t mind at all. For me, that comes with the territory, but I understand if they were annoyed. I also understand that a border agent in Havre Montana would carefully check unknown visitors who speak a foreign language. That’s his job, within a hundred miles of the border.

So why am I writing about this? Why is immigration an issue for a religious article? Possibly immigration is not important here, but telling the truth is. Along with my neighbors and friends, I know that a small incident in this part of the world is only news if it supports some larger propaganda theme. Also, we know about smuggling across the border, it’s an obvious fact of life for us.

The people who claim to tell us the truth often just tell us carefully twisted stories to support their favorite political position. This story is a classic example of ‘news’ from ‘journalists.’ Where I live, we can see the obvious omissions and the distorted story that fits a propaganda line.

This is serious. Jesus told us “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) Untruth will lead us in the opposite direction and make us slaves. That is a piece of truth that we all need to know. Propaganda-journalism might promote a cause that people believe in sincerely, but only the truth can make us free.

This is not an option to consider, it is God’s way for humans to be free.

There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers. (Proverbs 6: 16 to 19)

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8 to 9)

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