Amazing Variety of Reactions to the Passing of Mandela

Not unexpectedly, Bill O"Reilly and others of the right have labeled Nelson Mandela a communist, and even the more objective pundits have allowed as to Mandela's having gone through a period in his life when he did in fact embrace communism, although you can be relatively sure that for the South African human rights hero what he actually flirted with was Marxism. To paraphrase G. K. Chesterton (writing about Christianity), "there's nothing wrong with [Marxism], it's just never been tried." However, Chesterton should have known that the early Christians were communists -- in the sense that they eschewed private ownership of resources and practiced communal production of food and other things. Ronald Reagan is condemned by the left for regarding Mandela not only as a communist but a terrorist, which indeed he may have been during those years following his attempts to change his country by Gandhian passive resistance. That was what landed him in prison. But these matters only illustrate the truth that one person's freedom fighter is another's terrorist. Reagan at the very least mentioned Mandela in a speech, urging the white majority government of South Africa to let the man go free from prison.

The silliest (and dumbest) reaction was that of the Roman Catholic Rick Santorum, who compared Mandela's fight to his own, against Obamacare (the ACA); apparently, Santorum is ignorant of the fact that South Africa has what the right likes to label "socialized medicine" and which we label in this country a "single payer" system. Santorum's entry into the fray merely illustrates what we've suspected all along: the religious right is also racist. Naturally the Bill O'Reilly's and Rick Santorum's take umbrage to the lauding of a man like Mandela not only because his politics are left, but also because their skin is not white. The recent attempts of the GOP to "reach out" to both women and minorities are laughable. Not only are they staging seminars on "How to Deal With Female Opponents," some, like Rand Paul, are opening offices in communities heavily populated by African-Americans, pretending that their own racist pasts are mythical at most. Paul, for example, employed a shock jock named Jack Hunter, who claimed to be "the Southern Avenger"and who paraded the Confederate flag everywhere he went. When the heat was turned up on Paul, he asked his friend to leave. It's difficult to imagine Rand Paul saying anything honestly sympathetic about Mandela.

There are some profound ironies following Mandela's death, as well. One of the tributes on TV featured a multi-racial children's choir singing John Lennon's "Imagine." (Today, December 8, is the day Lennon died.) Lennon himself referred to his song as "anti-religious" and "anti-nationalistic" and "anti-capitalistic." I suppose that makes John Lennon a communist too. It's kind of odd hearing the song on network television, since some of us regard it as the official hymn of humanistic belief, a national anthem for those of us who have none, for those of us who, to quote another song -- by Tim Rice -- have no borders save those around our hearts. "Imagine" never fails to move me, sometimes, as today, to tears. It seems to me a perfect tribute to Nelson Mandela:

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
No religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace

You may say
I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will live as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world

You may say
That I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will be as one 
In commention on Mandela's passing, one of the pundits spoke of the victory over apartheid with reference to the aftermath of Saddam Hussein's downfall. Images of the citizens of Baghdad toppling a bronze statue of the dictator and rounding up and executing members of his Bathist regime are of course a stark contrast to the reconciliation Mandela urged and accomplished in South Africa. I can't help but wonder if the difference doesn't have something to do with religious beliefs. Shariah demands violent ends for certain behavior, and in any event once the deed is done, one can always claim "Allah willed it" or "it was written." But contrast the wailing and thrashing about of Muslim mourners with the people dancing in the streets in the wake of Mandela's passing. Whatever the religious beliefs of South Africans -- and they're supposedly almost 80% Christian -- their celebration of death, their seeing the cessation of consciousness as nothing more than a rite of passage, is refreshing to say the least.
Mandela almost certainly would have wanted it that way. 

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That the far right takes a crass and unlettered view of Mandela's passing doesn't surprise me.  Too many of them are looking at a brown sky as it is.

To me, Madiba characterized the words of Lincoln when he said, "The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion."  Certainly, Mandela did that ... in spades.  I simply hope that his understanding and legacy among the South African people is long-lived and active in its practice.

Hmm ... Mandela and Lennon ... a couple of cards, to be sure ... and one hell of a pair to draw to.

Many years ago a young relative worked as the chauffeur for a rich Newport socialite to make money during the summer. She treated her servants like dirt. At the end of the summer he said, "One more week and I would have turned communist."

I wonder what political philosophy any of us would have adopted if we had lived under apartheid. It isn't hard to imagine become a revolutionary or a communist or even a terrorist if your freedom has been taken away.

I am not a communist but a socialist and I don't care who knows it. The hicks here have bumper stickers saying, "Socialists will quit being socialists after spending everyone else's money," or words to that effect, missing the point that since all of us are accidents of birth, no one should have a birth advantage over anyone else. The wealth disparity we see destroying democracy in America today could be solved by socialist institutions comparable to those in the hated Europe.

The conservative position seems to be  socialism for the rich and free enterprise for everyone else.

With the passing of Mandela I immediately noticed remarks on the Internet both pro and con. They went about 50/50 and so many people opened themselves up to narrow minded regional politics and the idiotic thinking that goes along with it, repeating hatred they had heard form others, and even trying to make the apartheid regime in South Africa appear to be the right thing to do. Maybe they would have liked living under Hitler in WW2?

My Internet post about Nelson Mandela said that his greatness came from his famous speech given at his sentencing to life in prison at age 46. In this eloquent speech he envisioned an Africa in which both black and white could live and work together side by side as equals without hatred or violence. Once he was released from prison and civil war loomed, he was elected president and served for 5 years. He did his utmost best to see that things came about just as he had said 27 years before. THAT is the greatness of Nelson Mandela! It will take much time yet. Crime is rampant but South Africa is now on its feet.

That's terrific, Dennis.  Thanks for posting it.

thanks for posting that and I enjoy the Lennon song.




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