I am one of the countless millions who were impressed by the active life, or to this point, simple life, of President Nelson Mandela. My first political awareness, internationally, commenced in high school and college; my first political action was to denounce and protest apartheid. I followed the political and militant path of his movement (ANC) in my first high school exposė on liberation movements in Africa, South America and the Arab world.
The day President Mandela was released from prison in February, 1990, I was at my uncle’s house. My uncle happened to be a political “junky” like his nephew and a fiery activist against injustice as well. Looking at President Mandela’s broken face, it came to my mind what heroes can do when they believe that hope is the enemy of despair.
President Mandela stood as a constant reminder to people of principle who stand and fight for their rights and freedom — his was the voice of anti-oppression and — tyranny and a source of inspiration based on tolerance and respect unmarred by arrogance and derision. One can draw a parallel with President Yasser Arafat who was like President Mandela to his people. He extended his hand to the Israeli leaders in in September, 1993, but the Israelis murdered the man who shook Arafat’s hand.
Alas, racism and violence continue to undermine the wearisome “peace” process and strengthen Israel’s apartheid. Palestinians are struggling for human dignity just as President Mandela and his people were under the apartheid laws of Pieter Willem Botha and Co.
Nelson Mandela died last night, bringing tears to the eyes of all people seeking liberation from oppression. He knew the true meaning of apartheid, he knew the true meaning of oppression, and the true meaning of patience: “Our struggle has reached a decisive moment. We call on our people to seize this moment so that the process toward democracy is rapid and uninterrupted. We have waited too long for our freedom.”
Over the years his thunderous voice could be heard speaking out against oppressive policies, standing strong like a lion for what he believed and struggled to bring to his people. He may best be remembered in his statement, “I have fought against white domination. I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
Yet President Mandela lived his dream and inspired millions to find their dreams come true. He devoted his life in pursuit of this ideal, and tonight the lion sleeps at last.