Nelson Mandela has died and it’s wall to wall coverage time and there is something important to say about him.
Mandela was a revolutionary he set bombs and in his younger days had no problem with violence to achieve ends and was a friend of Fidel Castro.
What made Mandela different, what made him great was not his acts of revolution or even his imprisonment but what he did afterwards.
It would have been so easy for him to like the Castros to keep power as a dictator for decades.
It would have been so easy to become Robert Mugabe and rig elections and give spoils to his political allies.
It would have been so easy to rape the country of South Africa and make himself rich beyond the dreams of avarice
It would have been easy for him to set up a dummy democracy where he would rule behind the scenes with a puppet president.
It would have been so easy to decide to take revenge not only for himself but for every black African who had been mistreated and murdered under apartheid.
He did not.
The world is full of examples of the former, of Castros of Putins of Mugabes, of men who started as revolutionizes against oppressors and became oppressors itself. Even here in America how many people were attacked in the name of “Justice for Trayvon?”
Because he did not, because he eschewed violence when he had the power to wreak it, because he instead restrained himself he also restrained an entire people who could have called for blood.
This made him great.
That example is the single greatest gift he gave to the world and is rightly admired for it and will be for centuries to come.
If only the Castros , Putins and Mugabes followed it.
Update: It’s been pointed out that later in life he never rejected the revolutionaries/tyrants who had supported him in the early days to give themselves a veneer of respectability. That’s a fair point but I think that would have been a been a lot to expect of him given:
A: What he owed them
B: How he knew them
C: How easy it would have been for them to open up their files on him to the world
If he had managed to speak out against those guys it would have made him The greatest man of the 20th century rather than just a great man. Given his past what he became was amazing enough, to expect that would have been miraculous.
Update 2: Stacy provides a bit more history for those who have ignored it:
Nelson Mandela was at all times a man of the Left — anti-Western, anti-American and anti-Israel — as attested by the fact that as late as 2003, he could say, “All Bush wants is Iraqi oil,” make a sneering reference to Israel, accuse the U.S. of “unspeakable atrocities,” and even play the race card over the Iraq War:
Bush is now undermining the United Nations. . . . Both Bush, as well as Tony Blair, are undermining an idea which was sponsored by their predecessors. They do not care. Is it because the secretary-general of the United Nations is now a black man? . . . They never did that when secretary-generals were white.
Mandela’s tenure as president of South Africa was, thank God, not the nightmare that Mugabe inflicted on neighboring Zimbabwe, but we ought not be fooled by liberal myth-makers who wish to reinvent Mandela as a secular saint whom all are obligated to revere.
He points out that it was only when the Soviet Threat was over that things could change:
It was in this difficult context, then, that the U.S. was obligated to support the friendly (and staunchly anti-communist) government in South Africa, not because of apartheid, but despite apartheid.
and that was the real point. If South Africa had played ball with the Soviets in the 60’s-80’s and join their side you would have seen the left turn on a time and defend both South Africa & Apartheid just as they defended Hitler right up until the day he turned on the Soviets.
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