Dabbling in politics

As you can see, this is not a letter.  I’ve also ventured outside my normal rules for blogging, as I never blog about politics.  But this specific little post has been brewing in my heart for a while. I need to get it off my chest…and then I realised: That’s exactly what my little blog is for.  If anyone is really offended by it…I’m not about to apologize.  This is my blog, and therefore I’m allowed to air my voice and my opinions here.

It’s a little something about South Africa’s beloved Nelson Mandela.  Don’t get me wrong.  I have respect for the man.  He’s come a long way in his 93 years and he has indeed achieved many great things.  He worked hard towards achieving equality for all, he uses his name to obtain funding for many great causes and on all accounts he seems to be a very nice guy.  He loves South Africa, and for that too I want to give him credit.  I think it’s great that South Africans can unite on his birthday and do something nice for their fellow countrymen…a noble cause indeed.  And I applaud the initiative.

What does make me sad however, is the way that he is being romanticized.  I watched a little piece on the news the other day.  And some organization had taken a whole bunch of school children and organized a sleep over for them at Robben Island and they were telling them stories about Nelson Mandela and showing them where he was locked up and where he did hard labour, etc.  And then the camera focussed on this little kid and he said:  “when I listen to this story I get really angry with the white people.  But (insert name of facilitator here) said we shouldn’t hold grudges.”  This statement made me sad and angry all at the same time.

Don’t get me wrong.  There were many things wrong with apartheid and everything around it.  And I am by no means a racist, nor do I support any form of discrimination against anyone.  But what everyone seems to forget is the fact that Nelson Mandela didn’t only go to jail for opposing the South AFrican government at the time.  He was a terrorist and in many ways involved with the deaths of innocent civilians.  It’s one thing to blow up military/police people during uprisings etc.  it is quite another to kill innocent people. In fact, I recall him once speaking after his release, and he himself admitted that he was in a way responsible for terrorist acts and therefore it was right for him to be in jail.  He will therefore NOT bear a grudge.

I look at all this fuss around Madiba and I weigh that up against some of the less than saintly things he did in his youth and I wonder how the families of his victims must feel.  How much it must hurt them when he is labeled a saint and practically worshiped by some.  Did he have a good cause? Sure he did.  Apartheid was wrong no matter how you look at it.  Does it justify the killing of innocent people? never!  It is also here that I would like to point out to all those people who love to accuse SA of having a sordid past called Apartheid that SA was no worse than some other countries.  The only difference between, say SA and the US was that South Africa dared to give it a name.  Thereby making it a tangible thing.

It makes me sad to think that Madiba’s struggle is being romanticized and that people are not being told the full story.  To be perfectly honest, I’m tired of all the hype.  Yes, he has achieved many things, and I think South Africans in general owe him a big thank you.  But that thank you is only owed to him for the latter part of his life.  I’m so tired of the fact that only half-truths are being celebrated.  I’m white, I’m proud of it, I was never part of any form of apartheid and I resent the fact that people forget that every story has two sides.

By all means celebrate his life.  Celebrate what he has managed to achieve in the last 22 years.  Celebrate the fact that he was able to leave his past behind him and focus on building a beautiful SA along with other amazing people.  Celebrate the fact that he’s helping people.  But don’t call him a martyr and a saint, for he is neither.

Maybe some of you will think I’m being stupid, some of you might even think I’m being racist and who knows what the rest of you think.  All I know is that I’m tired of the fact that certain people are allowed to say whatever the hell the want, while others are forced to tiptoe around on eggshells.  South Africa has changed in many ways, but until the pendulum swings back to a more balanced and central position we will not be able to reach our full potential.  We live in an amazingly beautiful and generally incredible country.  As South Africans we have overcome a great deal, and for that we should be proud of ourselves.  But we still have  long way to go and I pray that one day we will reach our full potential.  And while Madiba will most probably no longer be alive to see us reach that point, I hope he’ll know what we’ve done and what we have achieved.  He deserves to know that his hard work the last 22 years meant something.

So what’s the moral of the story?  I think what I’m really trying to say is that I find it annoying that the story we share is only half a story.  I’m annoyed by the fact that one man is put on a pedestal, in such a way that we try to sweep his wrong doings under a rug.  If we’re going to tell our children the story, at least give them the full story, even the not so pleasant parts.  Don’t call a man a saint and sanitize the truth to suit your own needs.  Rather celebrate the full story.  Because you know what?  I find the person Madiba has become so much more amazing knowing where he came from.  Mommy and Daddy Letters always taught us that not telling the full truth still makes it a lie.  Personally I think they have a point.  Just consider this.  If we are feeding our children half-truths about our history, what kind of morals and values are we teaching them? And how can we expect to build ONE nation if we refuse to own up to the whole truth?  What kind of a nation are we building if we build it all on lies and half-truths?



21 thoughts on “Dabbling in politics

  1. I agree. I think the fact that he came out of jail so peacefully is the main thing…although the people trying to get him out were not always so? Not hard for me to remember all the bomb drills we did when I was still in school (or the fact that they actually found a live land mine in my class while I was still in it!).

    It’s true that every story has two sides Ruby…but it’s also true that history books get written by the winners. 😉

    In any event I am glad to be part of this country and the opportunity to build a future for myself and my daughter here.

    1. So so true…the winners do get to write the history books. it is very sad though:(

      But I agree with you, I’m glad to be part of this country too:)

  2. If I were a black man back then I would have bombed churches, restaurants and any other target. Facts are that if you oppress someone, they will fight back. As our parents and grandparents were happy with the status quo, they were not innocent, and sometimes in a war there is collateral damage.

    Nelson Mandela is not a saint, but neither is he a bad to the bone bastard as some are trying to paint him. He is human with all the foibles, faults and idiocy that go with it.

    1. Ah but see…this is what i’m saying. I never tried to paint him as a bad to the bone bastard. He has done much for our country and for that I totally applaud him. And i think that’s worth celebrating.
      But I don’t agree with you on bombing churches and restaurants. It is accepted that military and police officials will suffer casualties, it’s part of what their job entails. But innocent civilians? I’ll never agree with that. What about the civilians who didn’t agree with what was happening and did what they could, but didn’t agree with what the oppressed were doing either. The people who believed that apartheid was wrong but couldn’t reconcile themselves with the terrorist tactics being followed? They also suffered and they also died and they were INNOCENT. I’m sorry, i can never accept that killing civilians is an OK thing to do. Many other individuals that people love to label terrorists and judge also have worthy causes, but they are judged for killing innocent civilians. Why should it be any different here? All i’m saying is that I find it sad that the entire story is not shared. I’ll still celebrate Madiba. As I said, i think he’s done many amazing things. But it doesn’t change the fact that he was a terrorist, and i wish South Africans would acknowledge the fact that he is not innocent. I think Mandela day is an amazing initiative and I support it wholeheartedly. All I want is for the past to be reflected the way it truly happened. But as Louisa said…the winners get to write the history books.

      “Nelson Mandela is not a saint, but neither is he a bad to the bone bastard as some are trying to paint him. He is human with all the foibles, faults and idiocy that go with it.” –> I do like this statement however:)

      I’m looking forward to a future in this country. I think we have many amazing leaders and people waiting to take us to new heights. But until we all embrace our past the way it actually happened and stop blaming things that happened many years ago for current problems caused by current mistakes, we won’t reach our full potential. And this is what makes me sad.

        1. One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. I agree…this statement holds much truth. But i refer back to what i said earlier. What about the people we love to label terrorists in the current world, the people we judge and condemn…they are also freedom fighters in their minds. I don’t agree with their methods either. the equation of two wrongs don’t make a right also applies…just remember that. But I still stand by what i wrote and what I said. It’s my point of view and my heart and my opinion, and there are many who agree with me.

  3. Well said. In this same light, people should consider the fact that the way we feel about the Julius Malema’s of today is the way many felt about Mandela back in his day.

  4. Mmmm…I think that ones opinion depends on YOUR particular context and your subjective experience of having lived on the receiving end of apartheid. Your opinion would most certainly be different if your context was different.
    There is a saying that goes something like this: “One persons freedom fighter is usually another persons terrorist”.

    Mandela is no saint – he himself acknowledges this.

    He is not a martyr either. A martyr dies for what he believes in and he ain’t dead.

    I actually don’t agree with most of what you have written but I do commend you for being brave enough to voice it.

    1. Thank you for the response:) and the beauty of opinions is that everyone’s opinion is different.
      Thing is…i didn’t grow up with apartheid, regardless of on which side of the colour spectrum I’m on. Neither did a LOT of other South Africans. But what makes me sad is that many many young people don’t realise the extent of what Nelson Mandela did…in fact, some of them are under the impression he didn’t do anything wrong and the apartheid government imprisoned him simply for being against apartheid, and they believe this because that is the picture being painted. It’s misrepresentation of the facts and it is sad.

      As far as the ‘one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter’ quote…you can see my response to that in my previous comment:)

      Thanx for you comment

  5. I wonder how many people know that Mr. Mandela was only taken off of the US terrorist watch list in 2008? http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7484517.stm

    I also wonder how many of the people commenting here would be willing to admit that their mothers and fathers, or they themselves, were nervous and paranoid after the first democratic elections in 1994? How many are willing to admit that they didn’t want a black person to win the elections? How many still make racist jokes where they think no-one will hear?

    Madiba is a good man, because he is honest about what he did and why it was right for him to be in jail. He is a great man, because he truly tried to make things better for all of the people of this amazing country. And that is why I celebrate him.

  6. I truly enjoy your honesty and pinning down the facts. I don’t think I could have stated it better than you did. Hats off to you for putting into words what some are too scared to say.

  7. Sjoe! A potentially very controversial post, ne?

    Given that I’m white and grew up pretty much sheltered from politics, my opinion is limited to that which I can remember having personally experienced. I remember the integration being pretty seamless when black kids started attending my school in 1995… And generally, I’ve never really cared whether anyone is pink or green or human or whatever. I’ve always been more concerned with an individual’s conduct, the way they treat me and treat others, the environment and so on.

    That said, I know how priviledged I have been in this particular context and I do find myself wondering whether I would see things differently if I’d been one of those black kids who were only allowed to attend my school at the age of 15…

    This sort of thing is really not my thing and my only interest in the subject is to see how my children will be affected in the future. I worry that they will be punished for the screw-ups of the past, that black children might be raised to despise my white children because of what earlier generations did…
    I sincerely hope that we are all bigger than that by now.

  8. I’m not too familiar with the details of SA politics. Dear old Nelson, however has been in the English media for his birthday. We saw the highlights.

    The problem with the media is that it filters the details and the time the story hits the rest of the world we catch the summary. And thats all I’ve seen of his career, the summary and highlights. Based on that, he is a wonderful man 🙂

    1. He is an amazing man:) but you just confirmed what I hate. The fact that it’s a half a story, to suit the needs of who ever is telling the story….it’s just not cricket

  9. Totally agree with you girl, and was he really going to come out of jail and still say I hate white people etc, no, coz obviously it would work in his favour to say he forgives blah blah. And what did he do for the country while he was president, not much actually…..

    And what about the nelson mandel childrens fund, wasn’t there some controvery about the money etc.

    And not to sound bitter, just hate how everyone acts like he is a saint, he was in jail for a reason.

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