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10/08/2003 Archived Entry: "Courageous Integrity"

AN EXAMPLE OF COURAGE AND INTEGRITY. While doing some research yesterday, I Googled upon this article from an August, 2002, edition of Salon, "Noelle Bush gets rehab, the poor and black get hard time".

The title tells us nothing we don't already know (sigh). But read on and you find something rare. This passage concerns a New York group, the Mothers of the Disappeared. The mothers (and wives, and daughters, and others) are relatives of drug war prisoners. They took their name from Argentinian women whose children had vanished into the power of a ruthless military junta:

Given how high the stakes are, the mothers have taken an amazing gamble. At the Albany meeting in June, Pataki told them that if they supported his bill, he could have their loved ones out "in a matter of days." Pataki's carefully crafted bill would have shortened mandatory minimums for A-1 felons. Their sentences are so unjust they -- and their relatives -- have become the poster children for the reform movement. Darryl Best, for example, is said to be a devoted father who never missed his daughters' parent-teacher conferences or basketball games, but his youngest, now 13, will be 28 before he has a chance of getting out. But of all the people doing time in New York on drug charges, only about 590 of them are A-1s, so Pataki's bill wouldn't have remedied the plight of thousands of other prisoners.

Almost all of the women at the meeting were relatives of A-1 felons. Parker told them they'd have their relatives back by the Fourth of July if only they'd pressure the Assembly to pass it.

They said no.

Instead, the group told Pataki, they wanted to see thousands of prisoners freed, to get rid of mandatory minimums, to streamline the process for resentencing, and to expand drug-treatment options. They didn't want to divide what's become the most vital civil rights movement in decades.

How often these days does any tired, hardworking group of activists hold to their long-term goals when some juicy compromise is dangled in front of them? (We can all spell N-R-A.) How much harder it must have been for these people to make such a decision, when offered the choice between having their loved ones back "within days" or facing a bleak unknown for the sake of principle. What an incredible combination of courage, integrity, and vision they showed. True grace under pressure.

What's better yet is that they're not the only people of hopeful integrity in this story.

Posted by Claire @ 12:57 PM CST

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