1918 - 2013
First, a musical selection in tribute to the great man. South Africa's national anthem performed by Miriam Makeba, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and Paul Simon among others:
Second, on this, the day of his burial, I want to post something from a stranger to Nelson Mandela. The gentleman is also a stranger to me. In fact, his represent (I believe) the words of a generic white man who is apparently a Son of the South (apparently a Carolinian), clearly a fan of Mandela, probably liberal, and likely infused with perhaps an unhealthy dose of white guilt. Whatever the case, his words, however conceived *or* received, have merit. They arguably ring true. To me, at least. Here is what the guy who calls himself Sintax.the.Terrific (you can also find him on Facebook) had to say about this towering figure:
I have one take on Mandela, and I’ve made it to others many times before.
I am unaware of any other human in all of history who was oppressed so absolutely and then was given so absolutely the power to invert that oppression on millions of lives in justifiable retribution and yet declined. Not Ghandi or Dr. King or Mother Theresa. All of these individuals, righteous and consistent in their pacisifism, never actually gloved the reigns to violent power that must have tempted Mandela. They were always subject to power, maybe power they declined, but power they never possessed in the way he did. He was the undisputed psychological Monarch of South Africa upon his election. Had he chosen to change the country’s language to Mongolian Chinese and require men to birth the nation’s children he would have had widespread support.
Call it strategic or contrived, he elected, in the face of significant opposition from his own and victimized people, to largely integrate and accommodate. If you notice, throughout much of the rest of the developing world, when abused society obtains power they return the abuse.
The only parallel is in the lives of famous religious figures, like Christ. They are disqualified from this conversation insofar as they profess either actual divinity or divine authority or x-ray vision. As far as we can tell, Mandela was not any kind of incarnation or supernatural peeping tom.
Just a man who chose to do right in the face of so much opportunity to do wrong.
Maybe the greatest human that ever lived. Seriously.
That's a powerful testimony on the mystical reach of the legend that is Nelson Mandela.
Finally, a poem commissioned by the United States Department of State in anticipation of Nelson Mandela's death:
His Day Is Done
By Maya Angelou
His day is done.
The news came on the wings of a wind
Reluctant to carry its burden.
Nelson Mandela’s day is done.
The news, expected and still unwelcome
Reached us in the United States and suddenly
Our world became somber.
Our skies were leadened
His day is done.
We see you, South African people
Standing speechless at the slamming
Of that final door
Through which no traveler returns.
Our spirits reach out to you
Bantu, Zulu, Xhosa, Boer
We think of you
And your Son of Africa,
Your One More Wonder of the World.
We send our souls to you
As you reflect upon
Your David armed with
A mere stone facing down
The Mighty Goliath,
Man of strength Gideon,
Although born into the brutal embrace of Apartheid
Scarred by the savage atmosphere of racism,
In the bloody maws of South African dungeons.
Would the man survive?
Could the man survive?
His answer strengthened men and women
Around the world.
In the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas
On the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco,
In Chicago’s loop
In New Orleans Mardi Gras
In New York City’s Times Square
We watched as the hope of Africa sprang
Through the prison’s doors
His stupendous heart intact
His gargantuan will
Hale and hearty
He had not been crippled by brutes
Nor was his passion for the rights
Of human beings
Diminished by twenty-seven years of imprisonment
Even here in America
We felt the cool
Refreshing breeze of freedom
When Nelson Mandela took
The seat of Presidency
In his Country
Where formerly he was not even allowed to vote
We were enlarged by tears of pride
As we saw Nelson Mandela’s
Former prison guards
Invited, courteously, by him to watch
From the front rows
We saw him accept
The world’s award in Norway
With the grace and gratitude
Of the Solon in Ancient Roman Courts
And the confidence of African Chiefs
From ancient royal stools.
No sun outlasts its sunset
But will rise again
And bring the dawn
Yes, Mandela’s day is done,
Yet we, his inheritors
Will open the gates wider
For reconciliation and we will respond
Generously to the cries
Of Blacks and Whites,
The poor who live piteously
On the floor of our planet
He has offered us understanding
We will not withhold forgiveness
Even from those who do not ask
Nelson Mandela’s day is done
We confess it in tearful voices
Yet we lift our own to say
Thank You, Our Gideon.
Thank You, Our David.
Our great courageous man
We will not forget you
We will not dishonor you
We will remember and be glad
That you lived among us
That you taught us
That you loved us
-- The End --
There are difficult days ahead for South Africa. Political pettiness has already reared its ugly head, and a brutal dose of reality is surely on the agenda in the coming days. Many are reflecting on a different path that could have been taken, a disastrous path taken by Zimbabwe. Can they hold their country together?
I hope and pray they can. Just as Mandela did.