Gary Yarus: Mandela — Father of His Country

I am writing my thoughts about Nelson Mandela, having the advantage of reading over a dozen commentaries written here by others. These commentaries celebrated his life with views most people can support. There is no doubt he was an iconic figure, the father of his country, triumphing over South Africa’s brutal apartheid regime. To me, this great man can be more accurately eulogized and admired, in other equally important ways.

Mandela was a political activist and agitator who without universal approval did not shy away from controversy. Before and after his release from prison, he embraced a feerless progressive and provocative platform. Shortly after his death one commentator wrote “Mandela will never, ever be your minstrel'”, because of the his Malcolm X moments of anger. None the less, I see Mandela as the inspirational freedom fighter’s freedom fighter.

Mandela blasted the Iraq War and American imperialism accusing the United States of “wanting to plunge the world into a holocaust” by going to war, all for oil. He saw the Iraq War as an example of American imperialism around the world. He said “If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States”.

Mandela called freedom from poverty a “fundamental human right calling p overty one of the greatest evils in the world, and spoke out against inequality everywhere. He said “Massive poverty and obscene inequality are such terrible scourges of our times — times in which the world boasts breathtaking advances in science, technology, industry and wealth accumulation — that they have to rank alongside slavery and apartheid as social evils,”. He considered ending poverty a basic human duty:

“Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life,” “While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.”

Mandela called out racism in America. On a trip to New York City in 1990, Mandela made a point of visiting Harlem and praising African Americans’ struggles against “the injustices of racist discrimination and economic equality.” He reminded a larger crowd at Yankee Stadium that racism was not exclusively a South African phenomenon. “As we enterthe last decade of the 20th century, it is intolerable, unacceptable, that the cancer of racism is still eating away at the fabric of societies in different parts of our planet,” “All of us, black and white, should spare no effort in our struggle against all forms and manifestations of racism, wherever and whenever it rears its ugly head.”

May his memory be a blessing.

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