Thursday, December 05, 2013

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela has died.

I always refuse to say how the deaths of famous people make me feel, because I didn't know them and I can't presume to feel anything like real grief at their passing. But with Nelson Mandela I feel like I ought to make an exception.

This was the most remarkable person who has ever or will ever live in my lifetime. He was beautiful. The transition he oversaw in South Africa was miraculous. The lack of bitterness, rancour, need for revenge, they all speak of a magnificent human being. I aspire to such decency.

What a man.

4 comments:

Jim H. said...

I have to say I agree. I'm hard pressed to think of anyone of his generation who surpasses him in effecting such wide-sweeping positive social change on the world stage. We were blessed to have his first minister of corrections as a priest in our church and as a friend here in Atlanta. He was the one who closed the infamous Robben Island prison and turned it into a museum.

I felt much the same about ML King Jr., even tho' I was much younger. I grew up in the segregated South, and everyone around me hated him with such ugly passion. I never felt that way and am grateful to my parents for their recognition of the virtue of his cause and his movement.

Gandhi was of the previous generation. But King & Mandela have to be mentioned in his company.

Tom Conoboy said...

Agreed Jim, they are a mighty trinity. And the one person I might add to their company is Archbishop Tutu, whose role in the establishment of the astonishingly dignified Truth and Reconciliation process South Africa went through shouldn't be underplayed.

Jim H. said...

When I lived in NYC during the 80s & 90s, Tutu came to speak on several occasions at Riverside Church where we attended. Always a thrill and an honor to shake his hand and lend our collective support. A generous spirit, unafraid of TPTB and of speaking truth to power. That was the time when the Dick Cheney's of the world, Reagan & Maggie included, were branding Mandela a 'terrorist' and resisting the movement against Apartheid. In this country, voices of change came from the pulpits and the universities.

In your neck of the woods, the resolution of "the troubles" is another one of those moments in our lifetime where seemingly intractable strife and intransigent hatred finally succumbed.

Truthfully, I have the vague sense we could be on the cusp of something in that other hot spot of our lifetime: Palestine. Quiet, persistent diplomacy seems to be happening beneath the surface.

Tom Conoboy said...

Interesting about the troubles in Ireland. Undoubtedly, the peace process has been an amazing and surprising success. It is far from total, however, and there is still regularly trouble in Northern Ireland.

Mostly, this is caused by the tribal inability to let go of the past. The ridiculous "marching season" when they commemorate the Battle of the Boyne (1690) is one such. The continuous reviews of past events also help to maintain the sense of grievance.

Something like South Africa's truth and reconciliation process could have helped enormously.

But let's not underestimate what has been achieved. And you're right, the Middle East may be the next seemingly impossible problem to be, at least partly, resolved. And I wonder why I get so angry with naysayers who say that modernity is in a downward spiral?