History, or those who write it, has an interesting way of minimizing actions of wrong doing done by the power of governments against anyone who challenges their domination. Mr. Mandela is the perfect example; when they talk about Mandela, they hardly mention that governments around the world referred to him as a terrorist, a convict, a communist, and a saboteur. In other words, he was most hated and an enemy of the state.
This has happened to other men such as Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, who were also labeled as dangerous and enemies of the state – both were assassinated, and there are some who say by the state. I make this comparison because these men became great heroes after their death. Mandela was no doubt one of the greatest heroes of the last century achieving it in life. What he achieved in South Africa even Mahatma Gandhi was unable to do in India, and Mandela did it in a way that respected all of humanity. This is Mandela’s greatest glory!
Even his prison number 46664 (meaning prisoner 466 incarcerated in 1964) is now the name of humanitarian and charitable organizations. Mandela used his superior strength of will to turn those who opposed him into tools to make the world a better place. Mandela was a man who evolved above the pettiness of racial conflict, a man who saw with profound clarity that South Africa was not a Black nation, a Colored nation or a White nation. He saw South Africa as a great nation with opportunities for all people no matter their color, their tribe, their religion, or their culture.
Most people don’t know that the system used in South Africa known apartheid was derived from the racial practices of our own American south – only taken to the extreme! It was so dominant that blacks had to cross the street to avoid whites to include eye contact with them. It was a government rooted in real fear of a State that threatened dire consequences should a white person be assaulted or even insulted.
The Apartheid government was the most ridged and cruelest regime on the planet. For those who don’t know history, this government was firmly supported by the American government and Ronald Reagan in particular. If not for the powerful Black Lobby in the U.S. Congress, the United States would most likely have given South Africa even more support, including weapons.
From the early stages of Mandela’s life, he fought against this brutal system of oppression which resulted in his being sentenced to prison on Robben Island for a third of his life. Another fact unknown to most is that strangely enough the name Robben Island means “island of seals” in Afrikaans. The power and support from most of the outside world was such that little information was available concerning the regimes atrocities. Virtually no articles were published in the North American mainstream media; according to the editors they were not interested in articles about terrorists.
The outside world heard very little about Nelson Mandela. Few heard about Stephen Biko’s murdered and the thousands of South Africans that were persecuted, as most of the world continued to do trade with South Africa as a strong pro-Western anti-communist power. They had even developed and tested their own nuclear weapon.
Finally after years of struggle and hardship, apartheid was overthrown, and Nelson Mandela became the first Black President of South Africa. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. The U.S. presented him with the Medal of Freedom and the Soviet Union presented him with The Order of Lenin. Yet, he still officially remained on the list of people barred from entry to the United States.
In 1969 or anytime during the Seventies, the very idea that Nelson Mandela would one day be President of South Africa was an impossible thought. No one, not even Mandela himself could imagine such a possibility. It was simply impossible. Yet it happened. The impossible became possible and in achieving that position, winning the Nobel prize, Mandela gave a gift to all of us the gift of hope, the realization that no matter how daunting the situation, no matter how formidable the obstacles, that passion, courage and imagination can prevail.
We all die but few have lived as Nelson Mandela lived; few have achieved as much as he was able to achieve. I am happy that Mandela was able to live a long and remarkable life. He not only served his country with exceptional honor, but he has served all of mankind with dignity and amazing grace. The world surely has become a better place since he joined the human family.
In closing, this is Nelson Mandela’s most profound statement that will live in history as an inspiration. He stood firm for decades on the principle that until all South Africans enjoyed equal liberties. He said; he would not leave prison himself, declaring in his autobiography, ‘Freedom is indivisible; the chains on any one of my people were the chains on all of them, the chains on all of my people were the chains on me.’ Because of his epic fight against injustice, the entire nation is now free. We mourn his loss and offer our condolences to his family and the people of South Africa.
And that’s my thought provoking perspective…