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How could anyone treat this lady poorly because of the color of her skin.
A life made better 6,000 miles away and black and white different. I love Nelson Mandela.
We hail from all parts known and unknown. But Nelson Mandela knew me. Nelson Mandela is what I need to be. Nelson Mandela is in my heart and soul if I give it a good try. Dignity and respect may not be in me but Nelson Mandela put it there. Along with something more important.
I grew up with the man in prison. I reckon that in truth that means I grew up in prison if you get my point.
There is no point of good to say that “I met the man” not in the normal sense. But I knew him and somehow he knew me.
What could this guy have in common with Mandela?
The horrible atmosphere of institutionalized oppression.
Back in something like 1975. We went down to assess. Our other stop was the “Belgium Congo”. We photographed the rein of a Ngouabi. I am sickened to this day to think of it.
But Mandela’s South Africa was even more scary and echoed silence of death. It was claustrophobic of hate and fear. White as I am I felt dirty to be there, even if proper in cause. The horrors seen in the Congo were savage and macabre but the horrors seen in South Africa were clean and orderly and institutionalized. I must say I got the same feelings there as I did in visiting Auschwitz concentration camp in Germany in 1972.
There was just a pall of oppression that hung filthy in the air like a sauna of car exhaust, cutting off a clean breathe of air. By that time there were already good reads and films depicting the absolute horrors of the racial divide in the US. We had our Dr, Reverend Martin Luther King jr. And we had a free press to lay clear the atrocities of racial inequality.
That oppression in South Africa was palpable. It was present in every breath.
Impossible? I do not think so!
Bringing the light to a divided world.
Now I hope I have painted a bad picture, one that would depress any ordinary man. And it should be noted we did not mention one particular heinous act. However we know there were so many. And we know of a man imprisoned for 25+ years and how he suffered.
In that oppression rose and grew and blossomed a flower of life and love and honor and devotion and compassion and huge empathy and sympathy. This flower of life did more than suffer the ravages of hate and still remained beautiful both inside and out. In the most impossible of situations he was a light and a beacon for all others.
Here is an example of just how powerful that light and beacon were during that time. A boy in a mountain community in the American Southwest in a remote town where in fact minorities outnumbered whites was drawn to his flame. As far apart on this planet as two can get. In a time before one could even telephone direct from one place to the other. The man’s light shown bright enough that even that boy and his school mates saw it and were moved by it. Now that is one powerful light.
So we leave for pundits and historians and others to lay out the life of a great man. This writer is in his mid-fifties and can speak to a generation and more moved and empowered by Mandela. Here is another example of his power. My mom and I never once agreed completely on a single politician either domestic or abroad. We were about 40 years different in age. She had lived through the depression and WWII. She was a member of that Great Generation and I was near the last of the baby boomers. But on this man we agreed wholeheartedly that he was great. Great above measure. So a full world away and apart this one beacon of light even brought a mother and son closer together.
What is impossible?
Is there something that you should do that you cannot?
Bringing it home.
Today we see a group of workers demanding more money for their work. There is no offer to work in any way better with the increase of pay they demand. Without addressing their contentions we see protestors and demonstrations and walk outs and emotionally charged debate. And this is well and good. We must support people’s rights to demand a better life. Now just say we went and imprisoned all those protestors. And we took away their right to vote or even hold a job at all. And we did all that because of the color of their skin. And we left one young man in the prison for twenty five years because he was a leader of his people.
And then that man went on to become president of our country. What would we say was miraculous about that? Would we say the man was a miracle? Would we say the country was a miracle? Would we say the whole thing was a miracle? Quickly we see that truly one miraculous man creates miracles all around him. That is the nature of Mandela.
Never to far to reach
For sure courage is not the absence of fear.
Somewhere around the time that Mandela was imprisoned in South Africa we had a great president here in the United States. He in fact was assassinated in office. One has to assume that the assassination of a president is an ultimate protest to his policies. But before JFK was murdered he spoke some interesting words that should be known by all Americans. “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” (no I am not certain that is exact).
So in Mandela we see a man who actually fully lived up to this ideal. It is a good and noble concept but seemingly hard to really grasp. And yet here was a man that by his life did indeed show us that the impossible is only impossible until you do it.
Some concluding thoughts about our truth.
We are just individuals. Each one of us is seemingly not that important. Many thousands of us are in jail. Others should be. And we take and look at those there as though they are less than us. Most of us outside do not even bother to look inside prisons. And yet each individual there is an individual and any given one might be there wrongfully for whatever reason. Just one, just one, just one may be the next president of our country. This is worthy to meditate upon. This is truth. And the reason it is truth is because of Nelson Mandela.
So when great men break impossible barriers they just do not do it for themselves. That spark and motivation required of us is within us already. With Mandela it is already kindled and set and ready to burn brightly. You just need to find out who you need to do the impossible for and then just do it. Let us learn and burn for truth.