Archive for December, 2013

Mandela: The whole man

Friday, December 6th, 2013

Nelson Mandela deservedly received much of the credit for ridding South Africa of the scourge of Apartheid.  Yet, on the night of his death, I am reminded of the “Masterpiece Theater” series based on R. F. Delderfield’s novel about an English boys’ school, To Serve Them All My Days.  When Alcock, the widely despised headmaster of the Bamfylde School, dies, the masters who suffered under his authoritarian regime gather in the day room to prepare for a respectful farewell.  All, that is, except his bitterest foe, the crusty science master (dare I say curmudgeon?), Carter.  When asked if he wouldn’t join the others, he replied that he would not indulge in “a sentimental regard for the dead simply because they are dead.”

I don’t think we honor a complex, determined, pragmatic realist like Nelson Mandela by indulging ourselves in sentimentality that ignores all but the warm, cuddly parts.  Tonight, the endless tributes are paying homage to half a man.  Let us acknowledge – even if we can’t praise – the whole man.

Mandela was sympathetic to Communists within and without South Africa; he especially admired Fidel Castro.  He led the formation of Umkhonto we Sizwe, (the “Spear of the Nation”), the terrorist arm of the African National Congress in South Africa.  He often expressed solidarity with the Libyan sponsor of terrorism, Muammar Gadhafi, who was responsible for the bombing of Pan Am flight 113 over Lockerbie, Scotland.  He was an admirer of the author of Palestinian terrorism, Yasser Arafat, who introduced such innovations as armed assaults on Israeli school children.

I admire Mandela’s single-minded pursuit of racial justice and equality in South Africa.  That nation, and the world, are better places because of his determined efforts.  But I cannot ignore the end-justifies-the-means mentality that he endorsed, that has resulted in the deaths of thousands of civilians at the hands of the Umkhonto we Sizwe and like-minded terror organizations all around the world.  Mandela did great good.  Along the way, he did great evil.

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