Friday, December 6, 2013

A Remarkable Lack of Bitterness

Many things have been said about Nelson Mandela, but this one...spoken by F W de Klerk...is the one that jumps off the page for me.

He had a remarkable lack of bitterness.

Nelson Mandela was the very definition of a champion for equality and fairness.
He was a unifier.
A peacmaker.
A reconciler.

He was also in prison - doing hard time with hard labor - from the age of 46 to 72.  His offense was planning to sabotage South Africa's government, which he did not deny. He courageously refused to back down from his belief that institutionalized racism in his country was wrong...a system of minority-rule/white supremacy that continued to be considered the best way to run a country until President de Klerk began dismantling it in the late 1980s.  Part of that unraveling included Mandela's eventual release from prison.

He had a remarkable lack of bitterness.  

Nelson Mandela was the father of two sons and three daughters when he was imprisoned for life in 1964.  All of those children grew up without a father. One of the boys died in a 1969 car crash - Mandela was not with his family to mourn. He was in prison because he believed in a better way for the people of South Africa.

He had a remarkable lack of bitterness. 

The cause he committed to work for, went to prison for, said he would be willing to die for - went dormant - for almost three decades.  In fact, the system of racial oppression and separation grew arguably worse with the advent of computer technology.

He had a remarkable lack of bitterness. 

The day in 1990 that Nelson Mandela stood a free man at the gates of Victor-Verster Prison in Paarl, South Africa, I cried.  Like the rest of the world, I sat glued to my television watching the oppressed people of South Africa reclaim their hope with dancing and singing and cheering in the streets.  The day of their rejoicing - it was 1990 - was long overdue.

He had a remarkable lack of bitterness. 

Three years later, Nelson Mandela shared a Nobel Peace Prize with a white man who had never served a day in prison for the cause of upending apartheid - President de Klerk. Here's what Mandela had to say about that:
The value of our shared reward will and must be measured by the joyful peace which will triumph because the common humanity that bonds both black and white into one human race will have said to each one of us that we shall all live like the children of paradise. 
He had a remarkable lack of bitterness. 

In 1994, Mandela was elected president of South Africa in the country's first multi-racial parliamentary election.  He was the beginning of the end of white presidents in a country where white people made up less than 10% of the population.

He had a remarkable lack of bitterness.  

Nelson Mandela died yesterday.  I thank God he lived to be 95...that he was able to see his country's oppressive system change, that he had days to love and dance and celebrate and inspire the world to live in peace.

Nelson Mandela ha hona ea tshwanang le yena.  It's from a South African song.  The Sotho words mean: There is no one like Nelson Mandela.

He had a REMARKABLE lack of bitterness.

What a remarkable way to live.

Peace.