Today is a day to celebrate a man. And Nelson Mandela was just that—a man, not a messiah, not even a prophet—a guy, harboring the same flaws and fears as any of the rest of us.
And then the similarities between him and just about every other human whose gonads live outside their bodies skew a bit. Mr. Mandela opted to forgo the helmet and lessons, skiing that dangerous ungroomed route down to the extreme end of the bell-shaped curve.
Along with Martin Luther King, a fellow hero resolved to die for his ideals, the two never actually met. The closest they came happened in 1966. Accepting invitations to address South African university students and religious groups about the South African government's apartheid policies, Dr. King's visa application was summarily denied. Yeah, big surprise, right? In King's words, "In South Africa today, all opposition to white supremacy is condemned as communism, and in its name, due process is destroyed."
How right he was. Although King's life ended abruptly twenty years prior to the abolishment of apartheid, there was a kinship between the two. Mandela wrote in his autobiography of being inspired by Martin Luther King, and I'm inclined to think the feeling was mutual.
After King's voice was silenced in April of 1968, our own conservative leaders seized upon the opportunity to combine the civil rights movement along with the lawless, communist behavior of anarchist war protesters and drug-addled hippies with a shiny new logo—Red Scare, Part II. And Tricky Dick was tanned, rested and ready for the title of spokesmodel.
With Mandela already sentenced to life in prison and safely tucked away, National Review columnist Russell Kirk argued that "Democracy in South Africa would bring anarchy and the collapse of civilization” and the government “would be dominated by witch doctors."
And how right he was. Twenty years later, our own brand of democracy enabled Nancy Reagan's astrologer to ensure the First Couple's safe travels. Do me a favor, okay? Find that channel with the fortune teller and pledge a nice little holiday somthin' somethin' for those hard-working patriot psychics. Much obliged.
While we're on the subject of Ronald Reagan, who, ironically, was already well on his way to the type of mental decline of which he cast so many to lives of street bound homelessness, here's what old Dutch, former GE whore and monkey spooner said back in '81, after dubbing the African National Congress a terrorist organization: "Apartheid is a tribal policy more than a...racial policy."
What the hell does that mean, Ronny? Time to wrestle back the casinos from the tribes that overcooked your prime rib. But that one just north of Everett with crab legs every Tuesday night? Yeah, no apartheid for them just yet.
We've definitely made some progress. After all, here are a couple of laws not purged from the books until the '60s:
Prior to 1964 in Kentucky, the races of all candidates were to be written on the ballots.
Before 1968, even in my lefty home of Washington state, no homeowner was allowed admission to a neighborhood if found liable of "potentially diminishing property values." Worded like a true Seattleite—full throttle passive aggressive.
But even now, The Grand Old Party, bastion of Honest Abe, Dan Quayle and reformed witches from Deleware, continues underwriting racism and subtle apartheid. Those Birthers might have gone outside for a smoke, but they're coming right back.
In the aftermath of such a great human's death, we hail Nelson Mandela, as well we should.
But don't, even for a blink, lie to yourself that we currently live in a "post-racial" society, because we don't. I know it's easy and makes us feel better about ourselves.