Forgiveness at the heart of Mandela legacy by Leonard Pitts Jr

December 16, 2013

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.

Do you support the use of targeted violence to accomplish revolutionary change?

December 14, 2013

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Good afternoon:

This is our 799th post.

Nelson Mandela is one of my heroes and I have been following the news about his death and funeral. Today, I read an article by Jim Maceda for NBC News titled, Mandela’s freedom fighter days not part of ‘saintly’ image.

Many argue that the Sharpeville massacre on March 21, 1960, when police opened fire on a peaceful protest in a black township killing 69 people, was the turning point when black resistance went from a non-violent campaign to an armed resistance movement.

Mandela, far from remaining a passive, non-violent activist, became the first commander in chief of the African National Congress’ military wing, called the “Umkhonto we Sizwe,” or “Spear of the Nation,” (and better known as “MK” – the South African version of the IRA) after Sharpeville.
Inspired more by the writings of Mao Zedong and Che Guevara than Gandhi, Mandela built up from scratch a small insurgent force, trained in blowing up easy targets, like electricity transmission towers and rail lines. His recruits learned to make primitive bombs from ingredients normally found on South African farms.

By 1962, Mandela was already an underground “terrorist,” wanted by the police and living an outlaw existence who the media had dubbed the “Black Pimpernel” — a twist on the fictional “Scarlet Pimpernel” who struck at will and, Zoro-like, always avoided capture.

We know the rest of the story.

Jesus is another one of my heroes and my favorite story about him is when he overturned the tables of the money changers at Passover and kicked them out of the Temple.

I support what he did. I believe his outrage was fully justified.

I also support Mandela’s selective use of targeted violence as a means to accomplish revolutionary change.

What do you think?


If everyone who has not contributed a donation, were to donate $5, we could end this fund drive today.


Open Thread

December 7, 2013

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Good afternoon:

A winter weather advisory has been issued for our area from midnight tonight to 5 pm tomorrow. Looks like another ice storm will hit us before yesterday’s ice storm melts away.

Crane and I are going to walk to the store to get some groceries. Along the way, I’m going to try some things to start the motorcycle. With the temperature in the low 20s, I don’t know if the road will be ice free. Even if I can get it to start, I’m not going to risk life and limb by driving it on an icy road.

Since we are going to be away for several hours, I’m going to open this new thread for comments.

Court was not in session yesterday in the Kelly Thomas case. The trial will resume Monday.

Here’s a link to an NBC report. I think Kelly’s dad, Ron Thomas, nailed the cops with this statement:

“In his statement Cicinelli says he had no other option but to beat Kelly ‘s face to hell. What about handcuffs? He never tried those,” Ron Thomas said.

The world lost a great leader and human being a few days ago. Nelson Mandela passed to the spirit world. He made the world a better place. By word and deed he showed us that a man of peace can triumph over racism and hate. Think of him when the going gets tough. Draw courage and inspiration from his indefatigable spirit. RIP Nelson Mandela. Peace and condolences to your family.

What’s on your mind today?


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Fred and Rachel

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