06 December 2013

Mandela was More than a "Man of Peace"

In remembering Nelson Mandela, it is absolutely critical that his legacy not be sanitized. 

He was not always a saintly old man, with the near universal respect of the world, who brought peace and reconciliation to the most troubled of lands in a way no one else could have.  Yes, he was that, but he was SO much more than that as well.

Mandela, above all things, was a FIGHTER for social justice, and that does not just mean the end of the vicious Apartheid regime.  He was a fighter for equality and JUSTICE, not just for black South Africans, but for oppressed people all over the world.  And not just for those held down by racist laws and governments, but for women and minorities held down by religious and social traditions, and especially by ECONOMIC INJUSTICE, as it manifests in the perpetuation of wealthy, privileged classes in all nations, and transnationally keeping whole regions and peoples impoverished in order to advance their own wealth beyond the point that it could ever be spent or used.

In remembering Mandela the FIGHTER, we are obligated to remember two things that are true of ALL fighters.  Firstly, one does not become a FIGHTER if there are not forces aligned fighting AGAINST him, and the forces aligned against Mandela and his fellow ANC brothers and sisters were MASSIVE and well connected to money and power worldwide. 

Some of those people are STILL in power, and there is NOTHING UNSEEMLY about politicizing the death of a revolutionary by drawing attention to what he fought for, and how that applies to the struggles we continue to engage in today.  We SHOULD remind the world that Dick Cheney voted AGAINST sanctions against South Africa in 1986, and that Ronald Reagan VETOED the bill, before having his veto overridden by a Congress that included a GOP controlled Senate.  Only THEN did the United States government tangibly oppose the racist institution.

Secondly, we must remember that sometimes fighters must resort to VIOLENCE when violence is used against them.  For every example of non-violent protest by MLK or Gandhi that we are taught to remember from history, there are as many or more examples of protest that involved violence, or the implicit THREAT of violence, in order to achieve social justice.  Occupy Wall Street achieved relatively little despite its numbers because the powerful did not fear them in the same way that they once feared John Lewis and his mine workers, or even Gandhi and his millions or MLK and his.  Gandhi may have been the most peaceful of men, but what the British saw was millions of Indians striking in the streets, and they were scared it would become violent.  The powerful have NEVER given over their power to the people without first having the VERY REAL FEAR that it would be TAKEN if not turned over peacefully.

Yes, Mandela and the ANC used violence to fight the violence that was being done upon them by the Apartheid government of South Africa.  He was jailed in 1963, not for his words, but for his ACTIONS.  He was a convicted TERRORIST.  But in the end, he was not only victorious in his fight, he was COMPLETELY VINDICATED.  You have dig pretty deep into the scum of the right-wing to find those who still think he was not completely justified in his struggle, and in his tactics. 

Mandela will be remembered for all of human history as a hero to his people and all people.  Those who opposed him will be vilified, or forgotten.  He lived to know history's judgment.  That is the greatest gift a man may receive.

No comments:

Post a Comment