Friday, December 6, 2013

Mandela: Many Tributes, but Nothing Will Change

Today the world is mourning the death, and celebrating the life, of Nelson Mandela.  Tributes are flowing freely, but what I am hoping for are words that will be backed up by action.

This morning (Friday 6 Dec) as I was watching The Today Show, I was struck by the remarks of Colin Powell.  I have bolded a couple key passages:

[Powell]: Well, he started out as a peacemaker. he believed in nonviolence. he was a lawyer. he believed in the law. but then he realized that wasn't going to work against the regime of apartheid so he took up violence and became on a terrorist list for a long period of life. but then he realized that this was not the answer. and as you noted in your reports and a lot of people have noted, he went for love. he said let's reach out and show love and reconciliation. he kind of reminds me in the experience of the united states, he is our washington and our lincoln and our martin luther king all rolled in one. the founder of his country. somebody that kept the country together and in the spirit of martin luther king and madiba together, why we have to reach out to one another even though we have strong differences. we have to reach out and find compromise in order to get the consensus to move forward. that's what he did. that's the inspiration he has left for the people of south africa and the rest of the world.
[host Savannah Guthrie]: i have to smile when you use the word love. we hear the word forgiveness and inspiration and integrity because these are qualities that are so vanishingly rare in our modern public politics. 

[Powell]: That's true and we need more of it. we shouldn't be afraid to reach out to other people even though we strongly disagree with them. if we don't do that -- particularly here in the united states-- if we don't start listening to one another. if we don't start sharing with one another and sharing our anxieties and dreams and greatest ambitions with one another and try to find ways to move forward we're going to be in trouble. i hope americans will get renewed inspiration from the life and successes of nelson mandela.
It'd be great if words such as Powell's--that we should emulate Mandela--would not simply stop at the personal and individual level.  What if we would use Mandela's words and example as the basis for our foreign policy?
Think Iran.  Think Afghanistan.  Think the Taliban.  What if we said, "You know, our foreign policy regarding what we perceive as these threats has been pretty much the same for decades...what if ditched the weapons and threats and just talked, really talked about peaceful co-existence?"
But I am not optimistic.  Mandela's death and legacy will be paid a great deal of lip service, then the bullying and bombs and bullets will resume.  Because that's what we do best.
Sadly, this is when the change I hope for will occur.
[image credit Dribbleglass, here]

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