I said some prayers for Mandela’s health, and watched the international space station honor him in space. I had wanted to do my 67 minutes of charity to honor him, but locally, the scene was not organized enough to offer constructive opportunities. I ended up talking a bit to a local guy sleeping on a bench, giving him a little change, and listening to the local discourse on race on the radio as I drove in for the free afternoon at the museums.
A little later, I went through the African exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts – Houston. It is beautifully done with items from over a dozen of the countries in Africa. I noticed Ivory Coast, Ghana, DRC, Angola, Nigeria, Mali, Cameroon, Togo, and of course South Africa.
So, in honor of Madiba…
I still want to read his autobiography “The Long Walk to Freedom”, written almost 20 years ago. I remember apartheid and South Africa. The protests on the college campuses in the States where shanties were constructed and sit-ins occurred asking for economic sanctions. Some of the shanties had been burned. I remember reading “Cry, the Beloved Country”, published in 1948 the year that apartheid became law in South Africa. I want to reread it with more perspective now.
Why is Mandela important? I think it is because his life reenacts many of the possible phases of political activism. One can see the terrorist, the President, the prisoner, and the Nobel Prize Prize recipient in the same man, and reconcile the breadth of who he came to represent with the active change in societal structure, all the while trying to understand whether the man changed because of his environment, or the environment changed because of the man. In more than one way, the accounts of his life remove the labels from the boxes.
I found a little guitar music that I like because it starts out in another language. And this really old first interview with Mandela while he was underground in hiding, that very poignantly demonstrates the fulcrum upon which nonviolent political action sits: the persistent question that is asked at difficult times over the course of a struggle.
It is surely the question that Egypt is struggling with right now. The country is actually making a very interesting point (and trying to do it nonviolently, albeit through the military “threat of violence”). It is a stark contrast to the situation in Syria – both countries struggling with the “right to revolt”. In Egypt, it seems to me that the elegant way to reconciliation is for the older new government to acknowledge that it lacked sufficient “respect for the will of the people”, and the newer government to acknowledge that “it acted precociously”. Still, it is amazing that with the level of polarization that exists in the country, the struggle thankfully remains largely nonviolent.