Thank you, Madiba
On Feb. 11, 1990, the day he was released from prison, I was coming out of a prison of my own mind. I had just moved away from home for the first time at the age of 27 and was preparing to enter graduate school in pursuit of a master’s degree in public administration at the University of Akron. My employment with the Coca-Cola Co. was drawing to a six-year end with substantial enough changes to relegate me from the sales force to the position of cashier in accounting. The post was surrounded by plastic bars and a steel door which housed the enormous safe. Leaving both home and that position signaled a new-found freedom for me and resulted in a successful career in the mortgage industry. Madiba influenced that.
Nelson Mandela spent 27 years behind bars in a prison very similar to Alcatraz. Rather than become bitter and angry, he used the time to think through potential public policies that he could offer once he was released (something to be grasped at by aspiring public leaders in our country).
Upon his release, he was elected president of South Africa, the land where humanity first emerged before spreading throughout the planet. He treated both Afrikaners and Africans the same; as equals, rather than resort to the butchery of the opposition as most often happens when governments are overthrown. Those who held critical positions within the government were not fired because of their political positions but rather were offered inclusivity as another great president once did when he was sworn in on March 4, 1861. He too only served one term but was prevented a second term due to his assassination. Nelson could have been killed as well but his calming presence and wise approach to politics prevented that from happening. He served only one term as well, but that was by promise and choice.
Nelson was also known for his boxing skills, which perhaps added to his courage to go toe-to-toe with others over issues vital to the South African people. I won’t meet Mr. Mandela until I exit this world as well, but do indeed look forward to communicating with a man of peace, love and charity.
My friend, you have certainly fought the good fight and definitely kept the faith, and now a merited crown of justice awaits you. After your release, you did not shout or cry out in the streets, nor break a bruised reed or snuff out a smoldering wick. You did not get discouraged in your efforts to bring forth justice to open the eyes of the blind, free captives from prison and release from the dungeons those who sit in darkness.
What the United States needs today is someone to come forward in the likes of Mandela, Gandhi, Lech Walesa and the Dalai Lama to lead the need for change in America.
Phumla eluxolweni in peace my friend. I love you, Madiba, and thank you for what you did to improve the human condition.
~ JOE BIALEK, CLEVELAND
More inconvenient truth
They’re calling Haiyan the most powerful typhoon ever to make landfall. One survivor interviewed on the BBC said it was more like a tornado, the storm surge first driving him to his top floor and then the record-breaking winds pulling his roof off. Several small towns were completely destroyed and victims were left to fend for themselves amid the ruins. Unburied dead lay strewn about and people cried out for food and water.
At the concurrent UN Climate Conference in Warsaw, the Philippine’s representative, Yeb Sano, made an emotional appeal for meaningful progress in addressing climate change, even announcing a hunger strike until the goal is achieved.
You may not know there was such a conference. Many don’t. It attracted little attention in our media. Perhaps the climate crisis is stale news. More likely it remains a deeply “inconvenient truth” even now.
It is inconvenient to the political right’s cult of small government, for only a powerful government has any hope of addressing the consequences of climate change. Is it any wonder so much money from conservative sources goes into denying it?
Further, facing climate change is inimical to any concept of economic or population growth. Growth, that black hole at the heart of capitalism, will only increase our use of the fossil fuels driving climate change.
Before we can even acknowledge the size of the threat, we must jettison some of our most cherished beliefs.
Hunger strike? Yeb Sano will get very skinny.
~ MARGARET MORRIS, VIA EMAIL
Last week’s Arts Feature, “The good fight,” incorrectly stated that the women of Khayelitsha, Cape Town, made the Mandela posters. The artist was Robbie Conal. He made an original oil painting of Mandela and Typecraft, Inc. of Pasadena printed 6,000 copies, half saying “WALKING” and the other half that say “DANCING.” The women of Khayelitsha have received 4,800 posters.
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