Saturday, December 7, 2013

Nelson Mandela 1918-2013

The media mourning for Nelson Mandela has been shocking to me. Revisionism in my lifetime always rearranges my senses, and here we are again. (Note: Our radio show honoring Mandela was yesterday; our show honoring martyr Fred Hampton was Wednesday.)

It seems that only a short while ago, Mandela was regarded as a dangerous terrorist. Republicans spoke his name with audible contempt. It is dizzying and disorienting to see Fox News being all polite and respectful. I feel as if I have fallen through the proverbial Looking Glass.

As Mark Quincy Adams accurately writes (at Alan Colmes' blog titled Liberaland):
Their failed attempt to co-op the memory of Rosa Parks have not stopped our friends on the Right from trying the same with the late Nelson Mandela. Whether their hope is widespread ignorance of history or an attempt to disguise their true feelings, we must remember that Conservatives have always despised Nelson Mandela.

Dick Cheney, in particular, should be singled out as a leader in the ‘COWSHIT* Coalition’ (*Conservatives On the Wrong Side of HIstorys Tide). He was a vocal opponent of even setting the man free from prison! Sure, he said years later that Mandela had “mellowed out” but that’s hardly a recant of his indefensible position. Clearly, those who populate the Conservative Movement today are equally as hateful toward the man as Cheney and his ilk were in the 1980′s as we see from comments on Ted Cruz’s Facebook post attempting the gentlest of praise of Mandela.

While on some level we should welcome those on the Right who now want to praise Mandela, their sincerity should be met with great skepticism. The good news is there is something Conservatives really have to be genuinely thankful to him for. They should never forget that when Mandela was elected President of South Africa after 27 years in prison, he called for “Truth and Reconciliation” NOT “Truth and Retribution”. That’s a precedent Conservatives across the world should celebrate and hope that others in the future will find the Mandela-like strength to be so forgiving. Given their history, they will certainly need it.
And as Nelson Mandela himself said:
I was called a terrorist yesterday, but when I came out of jail, many people embraced me, including my enemies, and that is what I normally tell other people who say those who are struggling for liberation in their country are terrorists. I tell them that I was also a terrorist yesterday, but today, I am admired by the very people who said I was one.


As I get older, I am more and more curious about how history will judge us. The longer I live and the more I witness this kind of revisionism, the more I realize we will be judged in ways we can not even anticipate right now.

A couple of months ago, I mentioned that as I stood reading the words on the Confederate memorial downtown, I was struck by the total moral certainty of the poem engraved on the side of that memorial. It never once occurred to the folks erecting the monument, that mores might change; that there would come a time that their moral certitude would be shameful and even regarded as patently evil.

And that will happen to us, too. About the drones, maybe... or the way we have refused to take responsibility for changing the climate. What are we doing right now, that we will be held ethically accountable for in the future? What horrors do we tolerate so we can hold on to our standard of living?

If I contemplate this too long (and I have made the whole "history's judgment" concept a repeated subject of my anicca meditation), I become afraid that I am not doing enough. I can become nearly frantic. It's a scary concept for me, which of course means that I must deal with it, head on.

I am often overwhelmed by trying to do everything at once. I spread myself pretty thin as it is, and yet... I worry it simply is not enough. And I also worry that no matter what we do, it will make no difference.

At least we can look at a life like Mandela's and say, HERE is a life that truly mattered, that made a difference in ways that counted, in ways that endured.

And at such times, when I have doubts that what we do makes any difference, I hold on to one truth:
"For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business." -- TS Eliot.
Rest in peace, Nelson Mandela.


D. said...

You said it.

Some bird at the NY Times--hang on, I'll go look--Bill Keller, I don't know his work--gets a column out of Mandela's brief membership(?) in the Communist party. To which I tend to say "Booga booga, concern troll!" (It's at but I've used three articles already this month.)

JoJo said...

I have had mixed feelings about Mandela for the past few years. I was a ferverent supporter; I saw him speak at the Oakland Coliseum in 1990.

But thanks to the blogs and FB, I have white friends in South Africa who have told me how bad race relations are there. How the blacks are now given carte blanche to murder, rape, assault, etc whites and the ANC looks the other way because it's retribution for apartheid. That the ANC chants 'kill the Boers'. How there was a great deal of concern for white tourists when SA hosted the Fifa World Cup a few years ago. It saddens me that Mandela was unable or unwilling to truly unite the races after apartheid ended. Toko Kamera Murah di Indonesia said...

tribut to mandela.. one of big african who change the world

LarryE said...

The T.S. Eliot line is going to make my "Quote Unquote" spot very soon. Thanks for it!

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