Forgiveness at the heart of Mandela legacy by Leonard Pitts Jr

Monday, December 16, 2013

Good morning:

Leonard Pitts, Jr., is one of my favorite op/ed writers. He writes for the Miami Herald.

This is his editorial for today.

Forgiveness at the heart of Mandela legacy

Every once in a very great while, we get these people who rise above the confines of self. Nelson Mandela was one of those. He navigated his life by the polestar not of self but of freedom, and in so doing became the founding father of a new nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all people are created equal.

It is not that he was a perfect man. “In real life,” he once wrote, “we deal, not with gods, but with ordinary humans like ourselves: men and women who are full of contradictions, who are stable and fickle, strong and weak, famous and infamous.”

But if Mandela was heir to all those imperfections of humanity (and of course, he was), he was also able – when his country and the world needed him to be – to make himself greater than the sum of his flaws.

If you doubt that, imagine for a moment a different scenario. Imagine a Nelson Mandela who came out of prison after 27 years and seethed with fury. Imagine a Mandela who sought revenge against a white minority government that branded him a terrorist and stole so much of his life for the “crime” of wanting, and fighting, to be free. Imagine a Mandela who used the force of his legend and his moral authority to do what that government had long feared he would: issue a war cry, set black against white. The waters of the South Atlantic Ocean might still be running red.

Now, consider what actually did happen:

Mandela forgave. He forgave the government that segregated him to the margins of society and made him an outsider in his own country. He forgave the jailers who tried to break his body and spirit during his long incarceration. He forgave his country for hating him.

Not only that: When he completed his remarkable rise from South African “terrorist” under the apartheid regime to South African president in a new multiracial democracy, he made it a point to reach out and reassure nervous whites that they still had a place in the new nation now taking shape. And then there was the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Formed in 1995, it provided a forum for the airing and investigation of human rights abuses committed under apartheid – both by its defenders and those who fought against it. It was also tasked with making recommendations of amnesty for victimizers and reparations for their victims, and with constructing an authoritative and official record of what happened.

The process was imperfect – the military leaders of the apartheid regime refused to partici-pate, the post-Mandela government was slow to act on the commission’s findings. Still, it provided a visionary blueprint for the handling of human rights abuses and reflected a sophisticated understanding of a fundamental principle that escapes many of us: The victims can never be whole and never be healed until they are heard.

One can only speculate – and with no small bit of envy – how this country might now be different had it ever understood, as Mandela’s country did, that there can be no reconciliation where there is not first truth. But then, the United States operates under a different credo: Ignore it and it will go away.

“Now he belongs to the ages.” What Secretary of War Edwin Stanton famously said of Abraham Lincoln when the 16th president died, President Obama repeated of Mandela. And so he does. Now history – South African and international – moves on without the man who did so much to shape it and bend it toward good.

But the legacy he leaves will shadow that history, always. And that’s a reason for hope at a time when such reasons are in desperately short supply.

It is easy to be dismayed when one surveys the American political scene, as one listens to the nattering of mediocre minds unable to conceive of any cause higher than ideology or self. But in Mandela’s long and singular life, we are reminded that it does not have to be that way.

Selfishness is a choice. Mandela refused to make it. And the world is a better place because he did.

16 Responses to Forgiveness at the heart of Mandela legacy by Leonard Pitts Jr

  1. acemayo says:

    again George Zimmerman says that the media and law endorement is after him

    WARNING TO ALL U.S. CITIZENS OUTSIDE OF FLORIDA: George Zimmerman is leaving the Sunshine State for good, TMZ has learned … and he might be heading for your neck of the woods. As we reported, George has had about enough of Florida, primarily because he feels like he’s become a sitting duck for the media and law enforcement to prey on him. We’re told he would have moved a lot sooner, but the domestic violence incident with his GF last month — the one with the shotgun — kept him on lockdown within State lines … literally. He had to get an ankle monitor.

    • Malisha says:

      He shouldn’t be fed up with Florida. After all, who else would give him a free murder and a couple of free assaults just for having a pot belly and toddler posture? Oh, yeah, Texas.

      Is little Miss “he made me misspeak myself all over the place but I truly love him and want you to take the target off his back” going along with him to co-parent?

  2. Two sides to a story says:

    And forgive me too. This could be juicy-licioius, depending upon who filed. APB –

    • Two sides to a story says:

      O’Mara faces Florida Bar complaint about Zimmerman case ^^^

    • Malisha says:

      I would guess that it’s a big nothing. Probably Fogen filed it himself because O’Mara said the representation was pro bono and then claimed to be owed $2.5 million or somesuch.

      There SHOULD have been a complaint against him for lying about everything and for broadcasting slanders meant to excuse murder, but none of that would ever go anywhere because Nelson was just as complicit (as was Corey, as was BDLR, as was …) as the criminals themselves. May they all reap the just “rewards” of their calumny.

  3. Malisha says:

    OT, forgive me, but on the subject of forgiveness as well, look at this case:

    I believe Anderson should have been punished MUCH more severely, and all his other cases (both as prosecutor and as judge) should now be opened up and investigated.

    I also believe HE should be prosecuted under 42 USC 1981 — I wonder if any AUSAs in Texas have the intestinal fortitude for THAT!

    • Patricia Glennie says:

      @Malisha, “There can be no reconciliation where there is not truth.”
      Excellent opinion in my opinion ! Breaking news in orlando sentinental Omara faces Florida Bar Complaint about Zimmerman case, made my day!!!!!!!!!

  4. JJ says:

    After Zimmerman verdict, Dream Defenders gear up for more activism.
    1. Repeal the “stand your ground” self-defense law. Pledged his group would “remember, remember” the vote next November.
    2. Mobilize voters: oust Scott from office
    3. Goals are much broader than “stand your ground.”
    4. Supports legislation to put a stop to “school-to-prison-pipeline”. This term refers to zero-tolerance school policies that funnel minority children disproportionately out of public schools into the juvenile-justice and prison systems.

  5. Malisha says:

    “There can be no reconciliation where there is not first truth.”

    This is, in my opinion, the main point of America facing its race problems squarely. Until you see the majority of the American people actually admitting that there is rampant inequality, infectious racism, and crippling corruption and deceit in our government institutions, at all levels, there can be no solutions where there remain serious and democracy-threatening problems.

    • The various commissions appointed in the past to study major historical events and publish their findings and recommendations only seem to have muddied the waters creating additional uncertainty, suspicion and accusations of a whitewash.

      I believe our government is committed to concealing what it does and does not do behind a screen upon which it projects a movie that provides the appearance that it has an abiding interest in democracy, truth and justice.

      I am neither a conspiracy theorist nor a fool. The truth is in plain view for anyone with a curious mind and eyes to see. Robustly skeptical best describes my opinion of those who claim to govern in the best interests of we the people.

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