Mandela’s Legacy

As the world grieves for Nelson Mandela, it is worth considering how he became one of the most loved, revered and respected men in the world. His list of honours and awards is a lengthy one; over 250 individual salutes that include honorary degrees and citizenships, having a newly discovered physics particle named after him and, of course, the Nobel Prize which he received in 1993. Who could not love the man?
    Well, plenty, actually. The road to near sainthood for Mr. Mandela has been a rocky one and his actions in the past, many believe, were anything but saintly. When controversial Tea Party leader, Senator Ted Cruz, eulogized Mr. Mandela on his Facebook pages, a number of his TP-types wrote nasty messages reminding everyone that before his elevation to superhero, Mandela was a hardened revolutionary who praised despots like Fidel Castro and Moammar Ghadafi.
     Cruz posted this statement, “Nelson Mandela will live in history as an inspiration for defenders of liberty around the globe… Because of his epic fight against injustice, an entire nation is now free.” The post garnered over 5000 “likes”. However, when one of his supporters responded, “Let’s not forget that Mandela called Castro’s Communist revolution ‘a source of inspiration to all freedom loving people,” it received the highest “like” total on the page. There were many more negative comments, too. People talked in terms of Mandela being a “terrorist”, that he was “anti-white” and given to torture to achieve his political ends. Many expressed disappointment at Cruz’s remarks and it was evident the senator took a lot of popularity hits for his supportive statement.
    This is not at all like the plaudits and memorials served up by Canadians. Numerous sources are falling over themselves to create linkages to Canada and Mr. Mandela. Joe Clark even took what sounded like credit for dismantling apartheid in South Africa, although I’m sure Mandela and former president of that country, F. W. De klerk might have had a hand in it as well. Respected Canadian diplomat, Stephen Lewis, former ambassador to South Africa under Brian Mulroney, suggest that Mandela had a strong affinity for Canada, given the support he received during the Mulroney era. Indeed it is telling all Prime Ministers of Canada current and former, have been invited to the funeral.
    As a country we Canadians were more than willing to turn a blind eye to Nelson Mandela, Freedom Fighter and embrace Nelson Mandela Father Figure. Canadian media outlets are falling all over themselves to cast the dearly departed in the best light possible. Some say it is appropriate at the time of the man’s passing. Still, in the wave of genuine heartfelt grief for Mr. Mandela, it is interesting his roots have been glossed over. The brutal means to his arguably noble ends hidden from sight. It is telling, too that among the many websites replete with sage,, compassionate and inspirational quotes from Nelson Mandela, was this gem. “7 Nelson Mandela Quotes You Probably Won’t See In The U.S. Media” brought to us courtesy of the website, Buzzfeed. In it were some revelations of how the man thought that were decidedly un-American. It is easy to see why he was a bigger hero here in Canada than south of our border.
    Take this quote, for example,” If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America. They don’t care for human beings.” That’s pretty inflammatory stuff, particularly when U.S. foreign aid soaks up approximately $80 Billion of their budget, despite being trillions in debt themselves.
    How about this gem regarding the U.S. preparations for the invasion of Iraq, “If you look at those matters, you will come to the conclusion that the attitude of the United States of America is a threat to world peace.”
    However you might deify Mr. Mandela, you can’t help but notice some of the inconsistencies in his thoughts. He praised Fidel Castro for his revolution, but supported Ghaddafi, one of the first dictatorial casualties of the so-called “Arab Spring”. Where was the desire for freedom from oppression for Libyans?
    How can we judge the man, then, who seemingly went from radicalized, violent revolutionary to a kindly Grandfather figure, right before our eyes? Is this truly an inspirational man or a creature created by the mass media? Of even more import is the question, if a person does good, does it wipe out all the bad he’s done to achieve it. Is it enough to say that brutality must be met with brutality in order for the “right side” to win? What would Gandhi say about that?
    For apartheid and white rule to be broken in South Africa, it required a huge shake-up, there is no doubt. Entrenched oppression by a privileged minority over an underclass majority, especially divided so neatly by color, would have been difficult to change peaceably, even with a Gandhi-like figure at the forefront. The wealthy, white minority had a huge stake in the status quo and would do anything to maintain it. That the two warring sides eventually made peace thanks to Mandela and De Klerk, is a lasting tribute to both men’s vision for the future of their country.
    It is therefore fitting, perhaps that we finish with another quote from Nelson Mandela that illuminates the progression of his dreams for his homeland.
    “If there are dreams about a beautiful South Africa, there are also roads that lead to their goal. Two of these roads could be named Goodness and Forgiveness.”
    When we look at Mandela as a young rebel, perhaps, it is through his prism of forgiveness, we need to see him.

 

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