2013

18 December 2013: Mandela was a model of courage

Mandela was a model of courage

In his eulogy of Nelson Mandela, President Obama said the world is not likely to see the likes of him again.  Mandela’s life was a true model of unwavering personal courage, willing to self-sacrifice all for a greater and nobler cause than his own personal fortune.

World leaders, past and present flocked to offer tribute, Mandela’s stature having risen to that of one of the greats.  That wasn’t always the case: Thirty years ago Dick Cheney called him a “terrorist” and still does, but then it was Cheney who was the genius, the whisperer in his protégé’s, George W. Bush, ear to launch an unnecessary and illegal war that resulted in over 5,000 American deaths, tens of thousands of American wounded and suffering, and countless Iraqis dead and maimed for life.  So, who’s the terrorist?

One profound difference in the rare likes of a Mandela compared to Cheney and his ilk is that of great-mindedness.  Mandela had no personal agenda nor did he get wrapped in a jihadist mindset that is common in warriors, Christian, Islamic, or otherwise.

His was not a cause for God’s righteousness: It was about what was right for his countrymen who over time became his people.  His battle wasn’t cosmic with roots in heaven; it was an earthly mission very much like that of our ancestors in the War for Independence.  To George III, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams were undoubtedly terrorists.

While Jefferson in the text of the Declaration of Independence references a “Creator,” he does so in oblique terms, referring to him/her as “Nature’s God” and “Providence.”  Very deist in concept and philosophy.  His and his compatriots’ battle mission too was earthly.

And so is ours, those of us fighting the forces of imperial royalty, now in the form of corporations that dominate and even control the vast expanses of our lives.  It’s not about some deep morality based on some religious tenet or dogma, but something very real, very everyday to everyday, non-elitist Americans.

After all, who knows more about the daily course of your life: the U.S government or your friendly credit card issuer?  Who has more of a say on whether you qualify to live longer and more comfortably: the U.S. government or your friendly health insurer?

Chase Manhattan and United Health do not have heavenly investors insisting on a return in terms of profit; their investors do their business on Wall St., which I suppose for some is heaven on earth.

Mandela also modeled for us the aspect of great-mindedness by standing above petty bigotry.

There’s a great line in Barry Maguire’s 1960’s tune “Eve of Destruction”: “Hate your next door neighbor, but don’t forget to say grace.”

Amen, brother.

The mastermind of Masterpiece Cakeshop who refused to sell wedding cakes to same-sex couples comes to mind.  Pea-brainness, one sees, is not limited to the earthly mighty like Cheney; it shows forth at all levels of society.

Apparently owner Jack Phillips sees his business mission as not one to provide an earthly service that rewards him and his employees but one that pays tribute to a version of pea-brained deity in need of placation for its greater glory.  Sounds like Dick Cheney to me.

The Denver Post editorial skewering Phillips, and by extension other like-minded business owners, nailed it in its summary statement: “If you’re in business, you have a duty to sell your wares to all comers.”

Right on, brother.  It’s the essence of free enterprise, which is a two-way street with the “free” working both ways: A business owner/entrepreneur has the constitutional freedom to offer a legal/legitimate product or service, which then implies any and all consumers in this “free” society have the constitutional freedom to access them.

Apparently Mr. Phillips dosed off during the teaching of the Civil Rights Movement of the mid-20th century when the Supreme Court found that refusing to serve or to sell a product to someone not restricted by age—alcohol and tobacco to minors, e.g.—is unconstitutional.  So it goes.

Obama is right in that we’re unlikely to see a person with the stature of Nelson Mandela.  As Edwin Stanton opined in his eulogy for Abraham Lincoln: He belongs to the ages.

Thank you Nelson not only for what you did in freeing your people, but also for serving as a true model of courage for the entire human race, a characteristic severely lacking in this age of cowardly me-ism.  RIP.

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