Thursday, December 05, 2013

Nelson Mandela Dead At 95

Former South African president and international role model Nelson Mandela has died after a lengthy illness at the age of 95.

In perhaps his most famous and inspirational words spoken in 1964, Mandela spoke of dying for principles and for what he thought was right:

  “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. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” 
- Nelson Mandela, speech from the dock, Rivonia Trial, Pretoria, South Africa, April 20, 1964

He was imprisoned for over 26 years at hard labor after being convicted (in mostly a Stalin-esque show-trial) for conspiracy to violently overthrow the government before finally being released in 1990.

The hard right-wing in South Africa used his respect and/or influence of Karl Marx as reason to label him a terrorist and enemy of the people.

On a personal note, this is the man that black youths, both in Africa and North America should model themselves after.  Put aside his communist ideals and tendencies that the African government used against him (as well as his admitted crimes) he fought for what he believed in...on principle.  If you listen to men like Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington and Bill Cosby, they too continue to be role models for not only black youths, but all youths in general.  All three have noted Mandela as inspiration.

Wikipedia has the lowdown on the life and times of Mandela.

But one must be careful to, as former TIME magazine editor Rick Stengel said, not make Mandela into a Santa Clause-type figure, he wasn't.

“He had a great mission. And one of the lessons, too, is that he had one gigantic principle, which is to bring freedom and democracy to his people. Everything else was a tactic. He was a pragmatic politician. He wasn't a visionary, necessarily. He wasn't a philosopher. He wasn't a saint. But that – he never deviated from that. Anything that would get him there he embraced including violence, which he took the ANC created the spirit of the nation. He created the violent wing of the ANC. And people don’t realize that or remember that. We have kind of made him into a Santa Claus. He wasn’t. He was a revolutionary.”

And let's not forget the re-written property laws after Mandela took office wherein soon after white farmers were thrown off their property under threats of violence and at times many were killed by Mandela's new alliances. The result of which being these annexed farms were left in the hands of non-farmers.  People with no experience in farming allowed these farms to go to waste, causing food prices to soar and people to go hungry.

That, among others, was the downside to Mandela's rule and politics.  The man himself, his personal principles may have been something to desire or emulate, but he had his faults like anyone else, no doubt.  His is a complicated legacy.

I really meant to just to simply honor a man who made other lives better.  But he also made other lives worse, like any politician.  But typically the left has used his passing and the fact that other leaders, mostly conservative, did not fully embrace Mandela's regime (mostly because he was allied with such dictators and communists such as Muammar Gaddafi, Fidel Castro and the Soviet Union) as a reason to cherry-pick moments in history to label these people, especially Ronald Reagen as racists.  Shame on them.


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