Love thine enemy. Turn the other check. Speak truth. Blessed are the meek. Freedom. Be good. Be kind. It’s not complicated. We’ve all been taught to live by these ideas. But we love a guy like Mr. Mandela because however clever, possibly even ruthless he may have been as political tactician, he seemed, at least by the time he had matured, much, much better at living those precepts than most of us.
I met Mandela, but only to shake his hand, smile, exchange greetings. His people fluttered around him like he was a special, tall angel. And indeed, he had that air about him that most other powerful people I’ve met simply do not have. Just a couple of examples: Yitzhak Shamir. A contemptuous, angry, even cruel man, he seemed. Yassir Arafat: A buffoonish charm, maybe, when pushing his way through crowds, but mostly he glowed with anger and self-pity. Slobodan Milosevic. Murderous. Franjo Tudjman. Stupid and murderous.
Funny, but four ‘M’ leaders of Africa come to mind. Mandela, Mobutu, Mugabe, Mubarak. Can you admire the other three? Don’t these men who had billions of dollars and the blood and sorrow of millions flow through their fingers seem so small and unimpressive by comparison to good old Madiba?
Who on the world stage can you admire as much? Putin? Merkel? Musharraf? (Boy, there ARE a lot of ‘M’ leaders.) Our recent American presidents? (Okay, let’s not go there.) Pelosi? Reid? Boehner? McConnell?
Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to turn our respectful eyes towards somebody on the world stage today now that Mandela is resting in peace? South Africans have their many reasons for mourning him. One of the sad things about his passing for the rest of us is, well, read the papers.
— Stefano Kotsonis