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Mandela funeral hijinx
December 16, 2013 - Stephen Browne
Nelson Mandela deserved a better send off than this.
He has had his share of praise and blame since his death, ranging from sickening adulation to bitter condemnation. Fans point out he brought down apartheid, ignoring the role of F.W. DeKlerk who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Mandela.
Detractors point out he was a pretty hard-core communist and terrorist in his youth, and he wasn’t in jail all those years just for singing “We Shall Overcome.”
The fact is like many men who live long intellectually active lives, Mandela changed over the course of his life. And in the end when the choice of vengeance or reconciliation was his, he chose reconciliation.
The state of South Africa these days is a great deal worse than the world wants to know about. There is what is shaping up to be a genocidal campaign against Boer farmers going on that hasn’t caught the attention of cause junkies.
But it could have been worse, a lot worse. And if nothing else, Mandela bought his country time, which is not a trivial thing. Tomorrow is always a better day for men or nations to die.
When I was living in Poland in 2001 I worked with a white South African girl in the Warsaw Berlitz school. When we got to talking first thing I asked her was, “Which of the two white tribes are you from?”
“Both,” she said. “We speak both English and Afrikaans at home.”
The second thing I asked was, “What do you think of Nelson Mandela?”
“Mandela is a great man,” she said. “But he’s old, and there’s no one like him when he’s gone.”
That’s why she planned to settle down in Poland.
There may yet come a day when the western world will face the choice of taking in almost two million white, mixed-race, and Asian refugees - or ignore a Rwanda-scale genocide again. But if South Africa manages to avoid that dreadful fate, a lot of the credit should go to a a handful of men such as Mandela, DeKlerk, and Zulu Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi.
So love him of loathe him, is it too much to ask that the leaders of three western nations act like adults at his funeral?
By now everyone has seen the pictures of President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt taking selfies at the funeral while the eulogies were being delivered.
Right-wingers have had a great deal of fun at Michelle Obama’s expense for being obviously livid, attributing it to jealousy at her husband flirting with the pretty blond Dane.
Or could it be she was mortified that her husband was acting like a six-year-old at what was supposed to be a solemn occasion?
Yes I know, their attendance at the funeral could have been rank hypocrisy. Who knows what their real opinion of Mandela was, or if they even had one. They were playing their part on the world stage.
So what? A whole lot of funerals are attended by at least a few people who were indifferent to or actively despised the deceased. It’s called manners! Those behaviors you’re supposed to have mastered by the time you’re an adult.
What’s really weird is, the giggly trio has defenders. Oh lighten up, they say. The president shouldn’t have the burden of always having to be stiff and solemn.
Oh yeah? So how about you take your kids to a funeral and see how you feel when they start horsing around and taking selfies.
And you Brits, it's going to be a long time before you'll be able to joke about us "rude colonials" again.
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