He is rightfully praised, admired and lifted up as an example for many.
He is an historical figure with a legacy that will survive the ages.
All of yesterday’s, today’s and tomorrow’s glorifications are worthy on so many levels … but we should not forget: he was just a man.
Personally, I respect his courage, determination and maybe most of all … his sense of forgiveness … even after 27 years in prison.
Mandela spent most of that time in a small cell with a floor for his bed, a bucket for a toilet and hours of hard labor.
Most of us surviving that brutal horror would have come out in rage … demanding revenge for those responsible for unjust imprisonment, but Mandela said, Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.
Apartheid is forever a sin on his homeland as slavery is for our nation.
The fight against apartheid can never be told without including Mandela … just as the story to end slavery includes Lincoln.
Each man in their time in history took a stand.
Yet, as with any of us … each had flaws that were part of their personal history and character.
In truth, Lincoln was not so much for ending slavery as preserving the Union, and in documented cases, he used derogatory terms for blacks.
Mandela has been criticized for aligning with Communists (his only avenue of support at that time), and he has been sharply critical of our nation: “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 Mandela quote … angers me … especially coming from a man that in so many ways I admire.
But it also emphasizes my basic premise: Despite all his worthy and honorable acts, Mandela was just a man.
And since we all have sins and failings … who among us can cast that first stone?
We should join in honoring and celebrating Mandela’s life and victory over crushing powers and obstacles, but we should resist making him a god.
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (July 18, 1918 – December 5, 2013)
“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”
“I hate race discrimination most intensely and in all its manifestations. I have fought it all during my life; I fight it now, and will do so until the end of my days.”
“When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace.”