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The Long Road to Freedom and Reconciliation: Rest in Peace Nelson Mandela

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“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”  Nelson Mandela

One of the greatest men of the last century passed away today at the age of 95. Nelson Mandela, the human and civil rights advocate in Apartheid South Africa who spent 27 years in prison before being released and overseeing the end of apartheid and the beginning of reconciliation in that country. As President he understood the importance of sport to the country and helped use the victory of the Springboks, a rugby team that during the Apartheid era embodied the spirit of that system as a way to unify the country. When the team played the New Zealand All Blacks in the World Cup of Rugby Mandela helped use it to unify the country.

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Nelson Mandela was one of the most influential men of our time. He was a rare man of grace, courage integrity and vision. He was a man who fought for the liberation of every South African, not just blacks; those imprisoned by walls and laws and those imprisoned by the attitudes of their hearts an minds.

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Unfortunately so many of us including me did not realize just what an amazing man he was until he had spent so many years in prison. It was only after his release that I began to appreciate and admire him. Up until that point I had only thought that he was another Marxist type revolutionary. Of course I had never read anything he had ever written and didn’t know anything about his life or story. All I knew is that South Africa was “democratic” and stood against the Soviets and their proxies.

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My knowledge of him until his release and later election as the President of South Africa was the product of Cold War anti-Communist propaganda coupled with a distaste for “revolutionaries” in general. However when I began to read his works, understand his life and causes and put them into actual historical context of racism, imperialism and colonialism in Africa I was ashamed of my former views.

PHOTOS Century Collection

The sad thing was that in the United States I was anti-racism and discrimination and pro equal rights and integration for blacks and other minorities. I was a liberal here in regard to these issues even as I excused the vestiges of colonialism, imperialism and racism in South Africa simply because of the my Cold War “realism.” It is funny how a utilitarian ethic can lead people to positions that are diametrical opposites even in their own life and positions. The irony is that it was the fall of the Berlin Wall and collapse of Soviet Communism that brought the staunchly anti-Communist President F. W. De Klerk to release Mandela from captivity and eventually work with Mandela to end Apartheid.

Nelson Mandela - Rivonia Trial - Life in Prison 16-6-1964

When Mandela became President of South Africa I finally began to understand the man who before had been a caricature painted by my supposed “foreign policy realism.” His actions upon his release from prison, his election and his life after leaving office were nothing more than amazing. He was a man of rare personal and pubic integrity, courage, grace and virtue.

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Unlike other victorious revolutionaries he did not seek vengeance or seek to settle old scores. His committee on reconciliation was just that. It was not a commission that sought to punish men and women who during the apartheid days persecuted him but all non-whites in South Africa. Mandela understood something that others across the political, racial and religious spectrum fail to understand. He understood that resentment  of the other is a poison. His comment that “Having resentment against someone is like drinking poison and thinking it will kill your enemy”  is among the most rue that an philosopher, politician or preacher has ever uttered.

Police Officers Try to Control Protesters

Mandela’s personal leadership in South Africa’s transition from apartheid was perhaps on of his greatest triumphs. It would have been very easy for the country to collapse, for whites to be forced to flee or for civil war between the ANC, various tribal leaders and governments and the South Africa’s white population to tear the country apart and lead to great bloodshed. Instead Mandela modeled reconciliation. He understood something about freedom that many of us never really understand. He wrote: “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

Likewise Mandela understood the dynamic human tension that exists between hatred and love. He understood that both were learned behaviors. His words “for to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others,” embody that dynamic. That goes back to Mandela’s many years of imprisonment, years that many in the same situation would become bitter, consumed by hatred and ready to seek revenge, a revenge that he knew would achieve nothing positive. He knew that unless he left hatred and bitterness behind that he would still be in prison, a prison that so many of us, including me at times find ourselves. A prison without physical walls and bars but a prison nonetheless.

He understood that that hatred and bitterness only served to fill a cup of resentment which in his words “resentment is like drinking poison then hoping it will kill your enemies.”

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He was not unrealistic. He understood that many people saw him as their enemy. He also understood that in a country where great differences existed that such was the case. That being said he understood something that is lacking in much political discourse in our country today. He noted “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” That is something that we need to learn again.

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I thank God for Nelson Mandela, his life and works. He was truly a man for the ages. He was a giant. May he rest in peace.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Theater of the Absurd: King James Goes to Miami and a Vuvuzela Fatwa

Lebron James Flies Away

Well it is settled.  After weeks of speculation and media prostitution “King” Lebron James the First is leaving the City on the Lake and the Cuyahoga River, the fair city of Cleveland for the sunny beaches and maybe if you are a Clevelander the sunny bitches of Miami.    Of course as always I want to be fair and balanced about this as I am in all things to ensure that Lebron supporters and detractors find something to be mad about when they read this.

You see I don’t condemn Lebron for taking a pay cut, yes a pay cut to go to Miami to play with two buddies and 2010 Summer Olympic teammates, Chris Bosh and Dewayne Wade who are like King James among the top players in the NBA.  The NBA above all is about titles if you are to be considered a great, not individual statistics and regular season wins as important as those are. Everyone looks at rings and King James’ fingers are conspicuously naked in this regard.  I can understand the desire of King James, Wade and Bosh to band together and maybe enjoin others to their cause in the quaint South Florida village of Miami Beach from whence they shall go out to do battle flying on Miami Air across this great land to put the rest of the NBA in its place and establish themselves as the “Three Kings” of the NBA. Unfortunately he has left his legacy in the toilet in the manner that he made his exit from Cleveland.

Now of course I think the way that King James and his court went about this was pathetic and self serving and obliterates his reputation as an otherwise decent man who had given a great deal to his home town and state. King James was a beacon of hope in a land of otherwise abject misery, at least according to a recent poll and an icon of all that was good.  Unfortunately his little show made him look like a spoiled child.  It would have been better for him to let the people of Cleveland know that it had been a good ride that he loved them and appreciated all that they had done for him over the years early on and let them know that he wanted to move on while continuing to do good things for the community.  Sure Cleveland fans would still hate King James but it would not give the appearance of rubbing their faces in Cav excrement.  King James hurt his town while actually doing something that most people would never criticize him for and would never hold themselves to.  How many people would move to another city to get a job where thought he money may not be as good that they can work with friends who like them are among the best in their business and have the chance to do something special together? I doubt that many would not blink an eye in signing the contract and calling the moving van.  However it seems that while King James was repugnant in the way that he made his move that most of us would not condemn him for the actual move.

This was an unseemly affair but it entered the realm of the absurd when Cavaliers’ owner Dan Gilbert published a letter in Comic Sans font on the Cavaliers website.  The letter using great invective sounded like a teenager who was just dropped by his girlfriend screaming betrayal and cursing the person’s future endeavors.  My God and this man owns and NBA franchise? I guess that if you have enough money you can buy anything. But even so to act this childish and churlish flies in the face of what any smart PR agent would do like issue the following statement: “While we disagree with and are incredibly disappointed in Lebron’s decision and the manner in which he announced the decision we wish him well and commit all of our talent and resources to building a better franchise and bring the NBA championship to Cleveland and the loyal fans that deserve it.”  You see that would have been smart, but Dan Gilbert appears to have the emotional maturity of a 14 year old boy in heat, or whatever hormonal surges we as 14 year old boys are wont to have.  Gilbert has made himself look like a complete fool in his published tirade. I can see being upset but this tantrum is best done off the world wide web in the privacy of one’s home or office with no one having a cell phone to video it for You Tube.  No smart Mr. Gilbert; you could have been the hero but instead have played the fool. What agent is going to recommend that his clients sign with Cleveland now with the possibility that they might be demonized when they leave? I reckon that not many will be beating down your door for that privilege.

Despite this he had been good to King James; he was willing to spend a butt load of money to keep him Cleveland, fired his coach shuffled the front office and if they could have convinced other players to come and enjoy the six months of lake effect snow offered by the City on the Lake King James might still be in Cleveland, but neither King James nor Dan Gilbert could get them too.

The people of Cleveland should be disappointed and I don’t blame them for being angry. King James was one of them a hometown kid and that was beloved by his fans and they rightfully feel betrayed by him and this sense of betrayal was only made worse by King James’ silly display of self in making this announcement and the media prostitutes that began this talk even before the Cavaliers were eliminated from the playoffs.  The Cleveland fans deserved better from everyone involved in this sorry display, tantalized by the prospect of maybe finally having a championship team after more than 50 years they have seen their best chance of a national title die for good Lord knows how long and Dan Gilbert has ensured that the Cavaliers will not field a championship team anytime soon.

You see I view King James’s desire to want to join together with some of the best players in the league to win championships and take less money to do so amazing. So many players will get some team to pay them abhorrent sums ensuring that few other players of quality can be signed and these overpaid players do nothing but revel in themselves for years while producing no championships for the teams that they play for and the fans that pay their salary.  Yes this is about King James but he wants to win. In fact in Cleveland he was the franchise and opposing teams knew that and the good ones that faced the Cavaliers in the playoffs were good enough to shut them down because it was Lebron against the other team one man against five.  See in the regular season the Cavs could get by because most of the league is pathetic and had no answer to him but the really good teams deep in the playoffs stopped them in their tracks.  Lebron had to want more; one of the most celebrated players in the game without a ring and despite his efforts as well as the efforts of the Cavs couldn’t land the high powered players to play in Cleveland.  Lebron decided to look elsewhere and when the Heat signed Chris Bosh and Dewayne Wade was willing to go from being the main man to one of a triumvirate no wonder he went there.  Of course there is no guarantee that they will win as many real NBA commentators suggest but there is something to be said for the camaraderie of these men, something that is not always seen in professional sports.

So enough about this sordid saga it will play out eventually a Fatwa will be issued against King James, in fact I think that Dan Gilbert did just that in his letter.

Subject of a Fatwa

Speaking of Fatwa’s this is too good.  The good Imams of the United Arab Emirates General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments have decided that the favorite annoying noisemaker of South African football fans is verboten in the UAE, at least the loud ones, but wait are there any others?  Anyway the  General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments fatwa against vuvuzelas (Fatwa 11625) is now the law of the sand in the UAE much to the disappointment of UAE football fans who were so looking forward to using them at matches in that country.  I guess it really blows for them; don’t tell Pat Robertson he might get ideas.

Peace and laughs,

Padre Steve

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