December 5, 2013
South Africa’s essential man, Nelson Mandela, passed away Thursday night, South African time, after a long illness. His nation and the world will mourn his passing, but more importantly, celebrate his life. The mainstream media are already full of the details of his life, so there is no point in recapitulating his story. Rather, it is important to note what made him a moral giant, and the savior of a nation.
Nelson Mandela fought against apartheid, a vicious enforced system of racial subordination, an abomination. Jailed for his political activities, he endured over a quarter century of imprisonment, and during that ordeal he emerged as the moral leader of a global anti-apartheid movement. Freed, in part because of overwhelming international pressure, including sanctions, he led a nonviolent revolution, preaching reconciliation, which led the regime to fall without being toppled by force.
It could easily have been otherwise, with the anti-apartheid movement becoming a decades-long violent insurgency, culminating in a racial bloodbath.
Mandela took a national evil and ended it. Instead of becoming bitter by his imprisonment, he became enlightened, a true beacon and inspiration for people all over the world.
Mandela was not a perfect man – nobody is. South Africa has many problems, and its post-apartheid path has not been completely smooth. But compared to what would have happened without him, South Africa is a paradise.