When I first saw the movie South Pacific as a kid, I couldn't understand why some lady was upset that her boyfriend had "brown children." Last night as I settled into my seat at the Straz to prep for this weekend's audio description gig, I was looking forward to hearing the silly line I remembered from the movie. Shortly after the kids made their first brief entrance, however, my juvenile anticipation was spoiled by what I took as ignorance when an older gentleman behind me asked loudly to no one in particular: "Those are his kids?!"
South Pacific holds up well in the current era because of thinly veiled racism and our never-ending wars. I am a little surprised such a story was written 60+ years ago...but perhaps not so surprised that we sadly face the same problems today.
On Sunday, the white overcast sky and biting cold seemed to threaten snow in Southwestern Florida. My mom and I took a drive to the country to visit my brother, loving the scenery: plowed fields, birds in creeks, open-topped trucks filled to the brim with oranges. My brother CG is the reason we see a lot of Florida. He's lived up in Lake Butler, down in Belle Glades, and is now a bit closer to us in Bowling Green, where they say "Life is more relaxed."
It was so cold we couldn't stand around for long outside where he liked to smoke cigarettes with my mom. A good friend had let him borrow a ratty but thick long-sleeved shirt because he didn't have one of his own. Who knew Florida got this cold? Still, small children played in the yard with their parents: chasing, running, laughing, and being loved.
I looked around at CG's acquaintances standing around with their friends and families. Like CG, they're generally good people, but had "fallen off course," as my brother puts it. He's one of the sweetest people I know, but his unmedicated bi-polar disorder led him to self medicate with drugs, and on one desperate day he stole a vehicle, a gun, and more, and knocked over a convenience store for about $25 and a few packs of smokes. Because he had a gun, he received an automatic 10 years in the Florida State prison system. Some gun control we have here. Florida is cold indeed. Eight years down, 23 months to go.
CG talked about the antics of his peers as if they were away at boarding school. The stories he told made us laugh, and he sounded as if he was having a decent time. No doubt he was having a good time entertaining us. When he accidentally mentioned that fights sometimes broke out there, he politely nodded when Mom asked if he stayed out of them and minded his temper.
I looked at clock, ready to go after two hours, ashamed to let him know that I had had enough. Then I looked at his eyes, much more wrinkled in the corners than mine even though I'm two years older.
Driving home I thought of the waste of talent prisons take away from our society. They're expensive monstrosities that drain tax dollars without fixing the problems that got the mostly good but broken people incarcerated in the first place. It's as if our country wants these forgotten people to fail again and again. Or just go away so we can forget the terrible things they ever did.