Big Red Car here. It is cold in the ATX. It is going to cold for the rest of the week. Well, Texas cold that is — 30’s at night cold.
Ahhh, winter in Texas. On Earth as it is in Texas.
The world is awash with tributes to Nelson Mandela as well it should. A long and deep shadow has passed from our midst. Few men have ever cast such a long shadow. Mandela will be taking a seat at a table with such as Churchill. That seat has been reserved for some considerable time. It will be a feast amongst equals.
While it is a time of appropriate reflection on this man’s accomplishments and greatness, there are those who cannot refrain from pointing out that he was both a partaker of violence as the head of the ANC (African National Congress) militant arm and a communist.
The Big Red Car says — speak no ill of the dead. Nonetheless, there is truth at the core of these observations. Mandela embraced violence as a counter to apartheid.
Perhaps the pervasive and uncompromising evil of apartheid deserved a virulent and robust opposition? The Big Red Car does not judge this but simply states that perhaps it was the only means to counter the evil of apartheid — you decide that.
With that premise, one can understand that the violence of apartheid was met with equal violence in opposition. Bombings of military, law enforcement and public transportation locations were the stock in trade of the ANC’s militant wing. Mandela orchestrated these killings.
Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years for his involvement in such violence. He was not persecuted, he was prosecuted for real crimes and he was found guilty.
He has said that perhaps it was a “lucky thing” that he was imprisoned when he was because the next targets were to be schools and hospitals. This never happened because Mandela was imprisoned before this campaign became a reality. He could see and appreciate how far this could have gone and he clearly regretted it.
Mandela could have been freed from prison five years earlier if he had agreed to “renounce violence” as a tactic to oppose apartheid. He refused and he served five more years because of that decision. He served 27 years in total.
In measuring Mandela for the trappings of greatness many have identified his suffering, his forgiveness, his compassion, his pragmatism, his vision and other attributes of a man who became the President of his country and the champion of his people. Also, should be his turn from violence though the years of “necklaces” — gasoline filled burning tires adorning the necks of opponents — continued for some time after he was released from prison.
Perhaps his greatest quality was his dignity. James A Baker — former Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of State, White House Chief of Staff, campaign manager of several winning Presidential campaigns — noted this when he spoke of his first meeting with Mandela only weeks after he had been released from prison. Baker — a guy who has met and known everyone — opined that Mandela had not an apparent iota of angst, revenge or hatred. What he had was dignity. The other natural inclinations were purposely suppressed. This was a conscious pivot and the mark of his pragmatic character.
At the risk of being a bit critical, it would be a fair observation that what is missing on the world stage today and in the political leadership of our country is a lack of dignity on both sides of the aisle.
We are currently lead by men who cast the shadows of midgets. Never have such small minded men been entrusted with such weighty responsibilities. The truth is painful. Those who would like to compare themselves to Mandela, could not hold his jock figuratively speaking. [Ahhh, Big Red Car, that is a bit crude and hyper critical. No?]
Patriots v terrorists; or, terrorists v patriots
The Big Red Car — a huge student of the American Revolution and the times in which the Revolution was launched — is mindful that the genius of the Founding Fathers is illuminated by the fires of armed rebellion. They raised an army and rebelled against the Brits. They initiated armed conflict which resulted in the death of many British soldiers and won their independence at the point of a bloody bayonet rather than at a ballot box.
While it is a fair statement that the Revolution did not indiscriminately target innocent civilians there is ample evidence that many a Whig (revolutionary sentiment) visited violence upon many a Tory (loyalists or English sympathizers) in the name of the Revolution. Much personal property was stolen lubricated by violence. Rape was a means of punishment that was administered with reckless abandon. The Tories were as bad as the Whigs to be fair.
Early in the Revolution when the Brits had control of all of New York and much of New Jersey and the Colonies were sundered from each other along the Hudson River Valley with New England providing virtually all of the soldiers for the Continental Army — many a Tory rallied to the protection of the Brits. This turned out to be a particularly bad bet.
The sentiment for independence did not initially require one to rebel against the Crown. The Colonies had their own legislative bodies whether explicitly authorized by the Parliament or the Crown or not. One did not have to be in favor of armed insurrection to be in favor of independence. Today, one could be in favor of a revolutionary change in how we are governed without being in favor of armed insurrection. The times are different, no?
So, the question becomes this — were our Founding Fathers patriots or terrorists, perhaps a bit of both? Was the sentiment to rebel against England and seek a military solution the last harbor of frustrated but noble patriots or the first shot of terrorists?
With that yardstick held up to Nelson Mandela and South African apartheid, was he a patriot or a terrorist, or both? Did the evil of apartheid justify any conduct regardless of how extreme?
The Big Red Car is not one to quibble or equivocate or to deal in multiple shades of gray. But, you decide.
Godspeed, Nelson Mandela. Tell Winston Churchill we miss him also.