Friday, December 6, 2013

Nelson Mandela: 1918--2013

During my life time I have dedicated myself to the struggle of the African People. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. 

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, speaking to a South African criminal court in August, 1962

The judges didn't believe him. Or worse--they did and simply weren't willing to put up with that sort of all inclusive leftist nonsense. Shortly after Nelson Mandela uttered those words the South African authorities chucked him into a prison for 27 years. During much of that time he was in solitary confinement and allowed one thirty minute visit per year from someone on the outside.

After his release from the lock up, he negotiated with the white regime instead of leading an angry and armed horde against it. He was able to peacefully secure the first election in which blacks could cast a ballot and was elected president. After he took office there weren't any mass, government sanctioned, reprisals, no seizing of property, no executions for those who had administered the grotesque policy of apartheid. He was, in the end, a man of his word. Something which is in terribly short supply these days.

Mandela died Thursday at the age of 95. He is currently being praised world wide as one of the most progressive and politically moral humans the world has ever produced. Let's face it, given what was happening in South Africa and what happened to him personally, a lesser man would have started making Molotov cocktails the moment he walked out of the prison gates.

All of this leads us to a couple of people who can be considered in that lesser category of intellects and a quick history lesson. On Fox last night, Bill O'Reilly seemed oh so exasperated, not to mention disgusted by the global outpouring of tributes. He had this to say about Mandela, "He was a communist, all right. But he was a great man. What he did for his people was stunning. He was a great man, but a communist." The Moonie financed newspaper, "The Washington Times" called the statement, "a harsh reminder." Not to be outdone, O'Reilly's guest, Rick Santorum quickly added that while Mandela fought against "great injustice," the United States faces, "similar fights against injustice, because of the ever increasing size of of government which is taking taking over and controlling people's lives and Obama Care is at the front and center of that."

Mr. Santorum didn't give any examples of how Obama Care can be equated with apartheid. No doubt it is tough to find a few quality examples right off the top of your head. Let's see, during apartheid black Africans couldn't vote, or live near white Africans. They couldn't eat at the same restaurants or work along side of white people. Think of it as segregation on steroids. Obama Care, on the other hand, is about as intrusive as having to buy car insurance before driving a new automobile off the dealership lot.

Actually we shouldn't be surprised about O'Reilly. As late as 2008 he was accusing Barack Obama of being a communist. He has also claimed former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich is, "a communist who secretly admires Karl Marx." Apparently everyone who disagrees with Billy O is a communist.

The truth is O'Reilly isn't the first American with that assessment of Nelson Mandela. There has been a rumor floating about for years that before he was arrested in 1962 the CIA told South African security forces where they could find him. Later, still during the heady days of the cold war, our old pal, Ron Reagan vetoed a bill which would have imposed economic sanctions against South Africa for continuing the policy of apartheid and keeping Mandela in his cell. Reagan's veto, which was over ridden, was at odds with his public statements condemning apartheid. The problem was he was so fixated on communists both real and imagined he was jittery about any one opposed to regimes which were supposedly anti communist, no matter how brutally disgusting they were.

At that point the white South African leadership was funneling arms to right wing guerrilla groups who were actively fighting leftist governments in Africa. Indeed, all our blathering about men being created equal and freedom of this and that, didn't mean squat when it came to places like South Africa, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. The red menace had to be met and conquered at all costs . In short, if you were the enemy of my enemy, then you were my friend. And don't worry, we'll look the other way when you make thousands of your own people disappear. No wonder Mandela and the African National Congress looked to Cuba and the Soviet Union for aid. They certainly weren't getting any from us--the self proclaimed keepers of the bright lamp of democracy.

Well, it has all passed now and Mandela, as Obama said, "belongs to the ages."

In all honesty, we don't do well that often on this planet. In fact the track record of civilization has been pretty iffy from day one. It is the main reason there are vast numbers of cynics and atheists. However, every now and then you realize just how subtle God is. Think about it. What are the odds that out of the nightmare of apartheid a man would emerge with such intelligence, grace and humanity? By any definition of the word he was a miracle.

Rest well, Madiba. Rest well.

May we always remember not just you and what you believed in, but, most importantly, what you taught us.

sic vita est


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