With Nelson Mandela's death and the celebrations of his life that ensued around the world, the Twitterverse exploded. The man was a criminal, say the social media trolls. A terrorist. We will not celebrate the life of a man who came to power over the bloody bodies of innocents. And they have their point. The ANC perpetrated violence that at times took lives indiscriminately. Ironically, those same trolls denigrating Mandela on electronic message boards are fond of quoting Jefferson's: The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.
If the privileged, slave-holding Jefferson was convinced that the relatively benign British rule over the Colonies was cause for war, and Jefferson certainly knew that war with the British would result in the spilling of innocent blood as well as the blood of patriots and tyrants, then how can we blame Mandela for using every tool in his grasp to end apartheid?
Commentary in conservative media is much more nuanced. Mandela was a Communist, said the Wall Street Journal today. He was a card carrying Communist who only converted to capitalism when he could no longer depend on support from his Communist buddies who were in their last gasps of power. And of course, we have the photos of a smiling Mandela with Fidel Castro and other Commie bastards to prove Mandela's duplicitous nature.
I have done no reporting. I cannot look into Mandela's head or heart. But one thing is certain. Mandela was a patriot who had every right to fight the immorality and barbarity of apartheid. In that struggle, he would have been a fool not to accept the assistance of any country with a motive to ally with him. Were the motives of the French pure when they came to the aid of the American colonists during our war for independence? Probably not. The power struggle in Europe between France and England was longstanding and ongoing. Yet we laud Lafayette and rightly so. So how can we question Mandela over his choice to accept the aid of the Soviet Union and its clients, regardless of their motives? In the end, they held no power over him or over South Africa.
150 years after America abolished slavery, we elected our first black
President. In its first election after apartheid ended, South Africa
elected Nelson Mandela. The difference, of course, lies in the
demographics. In America, African-Americans were and are in the
minority. In South Africa, apartheid kept a white minority in power. Brutally. The fight against apartheid was a noble one by any standard. We celebrate the life of the man who put the struggle behind him and healed his country through reconciliation.