There are times that I am absolutely horrified by what occurs in this country. We can’t seem to stop shooting each other, we crown a hot, talented, intelligent woman as Miss America, (honestly perfecting the pageant wave is all I ever ask of my Miss America. The rest is just fluff), and for some people, the fact that she is of Indian descent has perplexed and confused them so much that they felt the need to take to the internet and proclaim their disgust. These are people who probably still refer to Asian people as “Orientals” and don’t understand why the term “coloreds” isn’t used anymore.
Let’s be honest, every single Miss America SHOULD be Native American if we wanted to get as outright dumb as those who had a problem with Nina Davuluri winning as these jackasses on Twitter who were up in arms because a “foreigner” won. Also, some took the extra ignorant measure of calling her an “Arab”. Nicely done, people who really need to put down their phones and stop Tweeting hatred and perhaps pick up a book, any book, except maybe 50 Shades of Grey, and read. I would like to suggest a newspaper, but start small, you don’t want to strain something.
There are so many things to get outraged about that it can be quite overwhelming to decide where to put your outraged energy. I’m fortunate enough to live in the great phallic state of Florida, a state that is known far and wide for stupidity. I have written several times about mandatory minimum sentencing and the fact that it needs to be reformed. I shared the story of Marissa Alexander, a woman currently serving 20 years in a Jacksonville, Florida prison, for firing a gun into a wall. If you don’t like her story, pick another one, there are several. Marissa is not the only one who has been affected by ridiculous blanket sentencing.
After much consideration, I chose working towards mandatory minimum sentencing reform over fighting for the rights of repressed cows not being allowed on a school bus or lobbying for the good people of Destin to be allowed to change into their swimwear someplace other than their hotel rooms.
This past Saturday, September 14, was Marissa Alexander’s birthday, and a day that was proclaimed a national day of rallies to raise awareness about Marissa and mandatory minimum sentencing. I was the organizer for the Orlando rally, a day that was actually more a day of me, my sister, and my 9-year old son holding signs in downtown Orlando than a RALLY, BUT, as my friend Cherie said, we talked, even when nobody wanted to listen. We talked and we gave out information and educated people about what mandatory minimums are, and we put a human face, a beautiful face, Marissa’s face, on mandatory minimum sentencing.
We certainly had some people rush past us while pushing their expensive jogging strollers, hoping not to make eye contact with us, and that was fine. It was a good opportunity for me to explain to my 9- year old how horrible rich people are (I am KIDDING…sheesh). We talked with people pushing expensive strollers and sipping out of Starbucks cups, we talked with people who were visiting the park after church, we spoke with regular folks who were just enjoying a beautiful Saturday, we talked to a couple of seemingly insane presumably homeless people, and we talked to a LOT of very well spoken, intelligent, well-informed homeless people. I know they were homeless because the majority of them told us they were.
One homeless gentleman in particular relayed his story about how mandatory minimum sentencing affected him personally. He had spent 20 years in prison on a drug offense and he had just been released last year. While he was in jail, technology and life, had gone on without him. He was trying to gain his footing, find a place to live, find a job, go to school, and he was finding it increasingly difficult to stay away from drugs. As he was talking, I found myself wondering if there are bridge programs in Florida to assist freed prisoners in their lives outside prison. I don’t know the answer, but it’s something I want to look into.
The rally was a success even without a chant as the one I came up with,“what do we want!?” “retroactive mandatory minimum sentencing reform!” “When do we want it?” “As soon as possible!” was a little clunky. I think we all left that day feeling a little better about the good that exists in this world, and it exists, though not in Northampton, UK because even though I read that this creepy clown is more than likely actually a few teenagers, I do not feel more comfortable about that fact. TEENAGERS? Do they not have the internet in Northampton? There is free porn on the internet, teens. Go do something more productive with your time and stop freaking people out.
I sent Marissa a birthday card today, with apologies for it being late. I included these pictures from the rally and told her that lots of us out here are doing as much as we can to make sure this is her last birthday behind bars.
If you want to get involved, head over to the Families Against Mandatory Minimums site and do just that!