Friday, December 6, 2013

I Have No Particular Emotional Attachment to Nelson Mandela. But, I Wonder if Sixto "Sugar Man" Rodriguez Will Perform at Nelson Mandela's Funeral and How Long Until Republicans Try to Claim That Reagan and Mandela were Allies?

I wonder if Sixto Rodriguez will be given the opportunity to sing a tribute at Nelson Mandela's state funeral? Would be perfect and appropriate, no?

I wonder how long until the American conservative propaganda machine tries to rewrite history so that Reagan and Mandela were allies? In reality, Reagan supported Apartheid South Africa and opposed the movement toward divestment and the efforts by black South Africans to bring down that evil regime. Republicans are feckless in their lies. They have tried to claim Brother Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. Why not go for Mandela too?

I am not a fan of hagiographies. Such as that may be, when a world leader of great importance passes way he or she ought to be allowed that moment.

I understand the importance of Nelson Mandela to global and American racial politics, anti-colonialism, and people's movements. However, I have no particular emotional attachment to Nelson Mandela.

I was thinking about my (non) reaction to Mandela's death during the obligatory public memorializing which occurred yesterday upon the announcement of his passing, and the tears and upsetness shown by some in the commentariat class on TV and elsewhere.

I am solidly a part of what is known as the "hip hop generation".

Like those men who were too young for World War 2 and then too old for Korea, I missed the anti-Apartheid movement because of my generational moment. I remember all of the discussions about Apartheid, watching Mandela being mentioned on The Cosby Show, reading about how students a few years older then me were involved in the American divestment movement, and listening to song lyrics that referenced South Africa's wickedness.

But, I was not politically active. My political consciousness had not yet developed enough to make the connection between the evil of Apartheid and why I should really care enough to spend the personal energy to get involved when their were girls to chase, video games to play, and rumored and unheard of hip hop mixed tapes featuring legendary MC's who were like legendary titans to track down at the corner store and during trips to New York.

In truth, I cried, real sincere tears, when the news broke that early afternoon that the Notorious B.I.G. had been shot and killed. I do not have any tears for Mandela. I doubt that a man of his modesty and dignity cares about how the public chooses to grieve and memorialize him. Funerals are more for the living than they are the dead.

Teach me something if you would.

For those of you who are deeply attached to Mandela, and perhaps who participated in the anti-Apartheid college protests and divestment movement in the United States and elsewhere, how are you feeling in this moment? Is the upsetness about the loss of Mandela or is it more a mourning of a political innocence and youth now in the more distant past because of age?


Shady Grady said...

Mike Tyson got knocked on that Saturday night and Mandela was released that Sunday. It was a very eventful weekend. I am old enough to have participated in anti-apartheid marches/demonstrations/etc.

I am sad that Mandela is gone but he had a very long life and is now beyond pain. It reminds me that Winter is Coming for us all and we need to try to make a difference in our lives and those of others.

I save my tears for my personal loved ones in any event but I remain amazed that Mandela was unbeaten and unbowed after 27 years in prison. They couldn't break him. There are some lessons there.

chauncey devega said...

Many lessons. Heck of a man--flaws and all. Maybe that is part of his appeal for so many that resilience. Funny how memory works, I saw that fight in at a friend's house in his basement with a bunch of folks.

Seeing Tyson go down was a generational moment. Not Ali-Frazier, but Tyson was unbeatable. To see him as a teenager go down like that was a life lesson. Anyone can get got.

babama said...

I am 58, it's not the loss of youth or innocence I'm feeling, that passed away ages ago, but tears of respect for the principles he represented and how much of himself he gave to humanity. I am glad for him and his family that he lived to be 95, and was able to taste the fruits of victory after struggle. Can't bring to mind many other freedom leaders of his magnitude so blessed, at least during my lifetime. I know my mourning is partly for all those who "didn't make it to the mountain top". My coming of age was so marked by political assassinations and untimely, early death, including the AIDS epidemic. Hope is good.

Bryan Ortez said...

Thanks for this. I feel similarly. I am interested in learning more about Mandela, but I know that will not come in one afternoon.

I am thankful he lived a long life.

I have a couple of friends in South Africa and they are mournful. One of Indian descent and is Muslim the other is English and Christian.

They note the corruption in the current regime. The divisive rhetoric from fringe fascist types, both of black nationalism chanting songs like 'shoot the boer' and the Red October white genocide movement. I think South Africa has a number of conflicts and problems. My Capetown friend says her area is the best and our other friend confirms, though he lives in eastern South Africa.

I think they are hoping the West Cape model can influence the rest of the country, though I can only imagine how difficult that may be.

j.ottopohl said...

Two things from my perspective on Mandela. First, he was one of the greatest leaders modern (post colonial) Africa has had. Certainly he was in the top five. Second, although it isn't going to get any attention in the US, Mandela and the ANC were always strong supporters of the Palestinians liberation movement which they saw as similar to South Africa's. Israel remains the last settler colony and unlike South Africa Tel Aviv has a lot of support from self described "radicals" and "progressives" in American academia and politics.

chauncey devega said...

Good comment there. Got something planned that may be uncomfortable for some next week. Tell us more about Mandela's understanding of the struggle against Isreal's Apartheid.

Downtown Dave said...

I appreciate the honesty. I was a bit too young and unaware to appreciate The Man in His in Prime, myself. That said, I've really been enjoying "learning up" these last couple of days. It's nice to hear about proverbial "giant" of humility and forgiveness. Not nearly enough of these those going around.

Justin M. White said...

Here's a nice photoset of hypocrisy:

DanF said...

Apartheid was the big social issue for my college years. I remember gathering signatures to push the UC Regents to divest in South Africa - which they did in 1986. I had graduated before Mandela was released, but it did my heart good to see the economic pressure that was brought to bare produced results. The drive to divest also opened lots of eyes in this country as to what was going on.

How Mandela handled reconciliation and his presidency is what made him inspirational. He chose peace and lead for peace and worked for peace, when peace may not have been the first thing in people's hearts. That takes greatness.

Of course the right still sees him as a terrorist and a murderer. They see no hypocrisy in the US bombing the crap out of countries for our political ends (their drumbeat to bomb Syria just a couple months ago is but the most recent example), but Mandela? In their view he has to be a Gandhi. If he fails as a Gandhi, he's a Violent Revolutionary - no shades of gray, no other options. Advocate violence to free the majority from the tyranny of the white minority - no matter how brutal they are - and you are a terrorist.

I was saddened by Mandela's death. Partly for what he did for South Africa and the lessons he taught the world, but mostly because he seemed like a decent, caring, intelligent man; and he spent his life trying to convince others to be decent, intelligent and caring. The world needs as much of that as it can get.

PhysioProffe said...

The last time I cried at the death of a public figure was Thurmon Munson.