A highlight from The Kidnapping of Patty Hearst | Free Will | 4

American Scandal


It's September 18th, 1975, in a jail in Northern California. Patricia Hearst is curled up in bed in a small concrete cell. The space is no more than 6 feet wide and 9 feet long. In one corner is a combined toilet and sink and at the other end are a set of steel bars. Hearst rolls over, trying to make sense of everything that's happened today. It was only a few hours ago that FBI agents stormed into her apartment guns drawn and placed her under arrest for robbing a bank. The encounter with armed law enforcement left Hearst feeling shaken. But the day took an even more surreal turn when Hearst in the agents arrived at the jailhouse and found a crowd of reporters waiting for her. Hearst greeted them with a raised fist, and during her booking she identified herself as Tanya, her adopted name in the symbionese Liberation Army. She even gave her occupation as urban guerrilla. All the radical posturing earned a few raised eyebrows, apparently people were expecting that after getting arrested, Hearst would stop playing the part of political radical. But Hearst's allegiance to the SLA is complicated. She was, of course, a kidnapping victim, and she had been held captive in a dark closet and her life threatened. But hers grew convinced her family had given up on her. And while living in isolation with the SLA, Hearst publicly gave up on her family. She made recordings of herself condemning her mother and father for their bourgeois lifestyle and calling out the media and labeling her a victim. She was fully aware that the FBI was leading a manhunt, calling her a criminal and trying to place her under arrest. So at the same time that it felt like her world was collapsing, that her family had abandoned her. The members of the SLA started to become something like a new family, even if it was dysfunctional. The radical political group had become her entire world, offering protection, camaraderie, and a sense of daily ritual. But now, Hearst is alone once again. The majority of the members of the SLA died after a shootout with the police. The group is in tatters after she and the remaining members hopscotched around the country, trying to find refuge. And Hearst was dealt the final blow only hours ago. When federal agents stormed her apartment and placed her in handcuffs. Hearst is lying on her side, trying to get comfortable when she hears a pair of heavy boots coming down the hallway. Instinctively, Hearst tenses up. Sin Q M 2 May, the fallen leader of the SLA, always warned what would happen if they were brought to jail. He promised that the SLA would be brutalized and tortured. Hearst believed every word of that terrifying message. And as these footsteps get closer, she begins bracing for violence. The footsteps stop outside her cell and Hearst looks up to see a deputy with a blank expression. It takes out a key and unlocks the cell door. All right, come on, miss Hearst. You've got guests. Her stair suspiciously at the deputy, waiting for his next move. Miss Harris, come on, we don't have all night. First gets up. Still eyeing the deputy. He places a pair of handcuffs on her wrists. And then he leads her down a dark hallway, past rose of other jail cells, and inmates who stand banging against their cell doors and shouting out. Her swallows as she gets closer and closer to what she is sure will be a beating. She's trained for this moment, but still she is afraid. Moment later, Hearst in the deputy arrive in front of a door. Hearst is merely trembling now in fearful anticipation of what comes next. But when the deputy turns the knob and the door opens, Hearst freezes in surprise. In front of her are her mother and father, and her two younger sisters, family members, she hasn't seen in over a year and a half. Catherine Hearst, Patricia's mother, steps forward, cradling a dozen yellow roses. All patty sweetheart. I'm so thrilled to know you're safe and you look what your hair is quite different. Unconsciously, Patricia touches her hair, which she boxed dyed red a few weeks ago. You don't like it. You've been using various disguises. Let's change the subject. Tell me about how they're treating you here. Do you share a cell? No, they have me alone. Said it's for my own safety. But that doesn't make sense. Me and the other prisoners, we are in the struggle together. Ah, of course. Well, here, penny. These roses are for you. To brighten up your space. Well, thank you. No, don't thank me. They're from the reporters who have been visiting the house. They were so happy to hear this was all coming to an end. Catherine holds out the roses, but Patricia doesn't move to take them. After all the outrageous coverage, all the sensational headlines and baseless accusations now reporters are sending her flowers, sweetheart, patty, what's wrong? The flowers are nice, but what is it? Are they not treating you well here? No, nothing bad has happened so far. What do you mean so far? Patricia pauses. Her family, with their mansion and summers at the hearse castle, could never understand the wide gulf that now stands between them. The reality of prison, all the lessons Patricia learned from the SLA about oppression and sexism and racism in America. It's nothing. You wouldn't understand. Patricia, whatever's on your mind, we will understand. No, no, don't worry, mother, huh? I'll be fine. And I didn't mean anything. This is all very new. Yes, and it won't be permanent. We'll see to it that you get out of here soon. Your father's hiring the best attorney money can buy. The deputy signals it's time to wrap up. And don't you worry, patty. We'll get you out of here. And then we'll put all of this behind us. I promise. A minute later, Patricia Hearst is escorted back to herself. As she walks down the hallway, she gazes at the other prisoners. Women who were locked up and promptly forgotten about. Hearst knows her mother has fantasies that she'll beat the charges and everyone will soon get back to their old lives. But it is a fantasy. Hearst is now one of the oppressed, and inmate in America's criminal justice system. And she's about to face a trial that'll be as much about political theater as any real form of justice. American scandal is sponsored by a new limited series coming out on Hulu, welcome to chippendales, starring Kumail Nanjiani, Murray Bartlett, annaleigh Ashford, and Juliette Lewis. 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