Thursday, December 05, 2013


Look at this picture. It's easy for us to get misty-eyed, and remember the man of peace, but look at him. This is a tough guy. Twenty-seven years in prison, and when twice offered his release he refused because it was based on the condition of renouncing violence as a political weapon.

Like George Washington, he could have been president for life, but unlike every other African leader who overthrew a colonial power he established stability and stepped down after one term.

We knew this day was coming. He was ninety-five and in poor health. Each new report made me feel that people were trying to hold onto him, make him struggle beyond any human endurance, simply because nobody wanted to bear the loss. 

My first political activity in Vermont, back about thirty years ago, was working on divestment of state funds from companies doing business in South Africa. While Mandela did more than any of us could do, American activists were proud to play a small part in maintaining pressure on the apartheid regime, even when Ronald Reagan was supporting it.

The mourning will be universal, and rightly so. 

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