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About this blog: I am a native of Alameda County, grew up in Pleasanton and currently live in the house I grew up in that is more than 100 years old. I spent 39 years in the daily newspaper business and wrote a column for more than 25 years in add...  (More)

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Museum memories and Nelson Mandela

Uploaded: Dec 12, 2013
The memorial service for Nelson Mandela this week sharpened memories that were formed in 2007 and 2008 when I spent a couple of days in Johannesburg as part of mission trips serving with Heart for Africa.

We visited the Apartheid museum twice. It told the story of the battle against Apartheid—we were touring only 13 years after the practice of radical discrimination based on skin color was formally dismantled. Apartheid in South Africa ended five years after the Berlin Wall fell in Germany. It was raw, real time history less than 15 years after it occurred.

Visiting that museum helped awaken me to the reality that blacks and whites alike dealt with in South Africa for decades.

The death of Mandela, at 95, last week, brought back that memory. Although his cause was always right—equality without consideration of skin color or ethnicity—his actions often were those of a violent revolutionary. He met fire with fire, in contrast to leaders such as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. or Gandhi. Prior to be imprisoned on Robben Island for 27 years, his cause was righteous, but his tactics were not.

What separated Mandela from so many other leaders—in African and elsewhere—is that he emerged from his imprisonment with the wisdom and the grace to put aside revenge and instead focus on what was right for his country moving forward.

He served just one term—stepping aside when he likely could have been elected as many times as he desired—and spent that time deliberately working to bring the country together. He embraced the all-white national rugby team (played out in the movie, Invictus) and wore their jersey to the championship game—symbolizing that people can move beyond skin color.

His later life and actions demonstrated that he was willing to put aside emotions and be true statesman concerned first and foremost with the welfare of his country.

That contrasts sharply with neighboring Zimbabwe where Robert Mugabe has ruled since the end of colonial times. He confiscated farms owned by whites, flat out stole elections in the last two cycles, and has ruled imperiously since the early 1990s. In that time, his country has been transformed from the breadbasket of Southern Africa that exported food to a country that cannot feed itself.

Such is the difference leadership makes.

Comments

Posted by spcwt, a resident of Danville,
on Dec 12, 2013 at 11:08 am

Mandela was a communist agitator in his younger days. It's true that when he came to power, he didn't seize private businesses as his communist allies had wanted. Nor did he exact revenge on his adversaries. Kudos.

Congratulations, Mr. Mandela, on not being as evil as you could've been.

Mandela wasn't a saint, of course. No one is. Do a Google search and read about his dirty laundry if you wish. But I suppose in today's world, if you're not completely evil, then you might be worthy of adoration, if you're a liberal like Mandela was.

Obviously, Apartheid was evil. Good riddance. Racism is an abomination.

But South Africans – both black and white – are certainly much worse off today than they ever were under Apartheid in terms of an explosion of violent crime, economic stagnation, and corrupt government institutions. South Africa used to be relatively safe, whether black or white. Nowadays, you can't walk down the street there without risking getting robbed or killed. You can't enter a store without getting buzzed in through locked doors with bars on them. All homes have barbed wire or bars around windows, or both. People live in fear and don't go out. Kind of like Detroit, only worse.

All South Africans now have the right to freely vote for any candidate they wish, so long as the candidate belongs to the African National Congress, who control everything. Got to love a one party system, right? Spread the wealth to the politically connected.

Change you can believe in.


Posted by Ms. bunny, a resident of San Ramon,
on Dec 12, 2013 at 1:44 pm

Thanks for remembering Mandela, Tim, in a concise matter-of-fact manner. He is not unlike the new Pope in his quest for greater acceptance of cultural diversity worldwide. -The desire for cooperation and respect among all cultures and countries. -The sharing and giving to those less fortunate and last of all, the fervent goal of living life with greater civility in remediating conflict instead of going to war. I wonder if we will ever see another quite Mandela again? One who has "walked through the fire" unlike so many who have never come full circle in regard to life experiences that change the very course of their life? Probably not in my lifetime, but then again? There is always hope...


Posted by spcwt, a resident of Danville,
on Dec 12, 2013 at 2:27 pm

Yes, Mandela was great at taking other people's money and "sharing and giving" it to those he deemed worthy. The ANC continues this warped vision. And liberals wonder why people no longer invest in South Africa like they used to.

Why can't liberals be content to just give their own money away?

Well, at least later in life Mandela didn't demonize those he pickpocketed. Our president could learn a thing or two from him in that regard.


Posted by Dave, a resident of Danville,
on Dec 12, 2013 at 6:18 pm

Well, no doubt South Africa was very profitable when there was a labor force that could be tightly controlled, without any say in its future, and exploited to the max. I'm sure there are some who yearn for that nostalgic past..........They are on the wrong side of history.


Posted by Conservator, a resident of Danville,
on Dec 12, 2013 at 7:18 pm

There are some contributors that offer such a consistently visceral view of the world that they are best described as just spc(al). If one was to put yourself in Mandela's shoes and see the world from his eyes prior to his imprisonment, what would you have done? Nothing or fought like a caged animal? Gandhi paid with his life for the future of his people. Clearly, so did Martin Luther King. Mandela spent 27 years in an 8x8 (ft) cell for his cause. Give the man due respect, particularly on the eve of his passing.


Posted by Ms. bunny, a resident of San Ramon,
on Dec 13, 2013 at 8:25 am

VERY well stated Conservator...Thanks for putting it RIGHT. One has to wonder about the lack of objectivity if not cynicism that some appear to dwell on/focus on/are absorbed by in their own lives when it comes a life having come "full circle".


Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Dec 13, 2013 at 5:29 pm

Mandela was indeed a great man...VIVA MANDELA! VIVA!


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