The Peaceful Troublemaker

The Peaceful Troublemaker

A look at Nelson Mandela

July 18, 1918 – June 26/Dec 5, 2013

cover spot for mandela“Troublemaker.”  That is what his forename “Rolihlahla” meant and certainly there were many throughout the years who believed this was so, yet his parents could not have guessed then, just how prophetic their naming of their newborn son would turn out to be … depending upon which side of the political divide you did reside that is.

July 18th, 1918 in the village of Mvezo in Umtata South Africa, marked an important date and location in the history of our World, not just the country of South Africa.  It was the day that brought Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela to this Earth.  Mr. Mandela was most known for being a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and politician, South Africa’s first black Chief Executive and first freely Elected President.  This man did what no one in the United States could have done — spent a 21-year term in prison only to find himself elected to his country’s highest office soon after release.

There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires. – Nelson Mandela

But this driven man was so much more than many of us realize or remember.  Nelson Mandela’s leanings toward actively speaking his mind through protesting began during his education at Fort Hare University when he was expelled for joining in a student protest.  A very different world than many of us understand or have experienced.

Having studied law at Fort Hare University and the University of Witwatersrand, he’d become involved in anti-colonial politics and joined the African National Congress as a founding member of its Youth League only to later in his life serve as its President from 1991 to 1997.  His early professional years saw him rising to prominence in the ANC’s 1952 Defiance Campaign and finding his appointment to superintendent of the ANC’s Transvaal chapter, presiding over the 1955 Congress of the People.  From 1956 to 1961, while working as a lawyer, Mr. Mandela became quite familiar with being arrested for seditious activities and even prosecuted from 1956 to 1961 in the Treason Trial … unsuccessfully.

Yet while his initial efforts to abolish apartheid began with non-violent protest, in association with the South African Communist Party (SACP), in 1961 he co-founded the militant Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) which led to a campaign of sabotage against the apartheid government and ultimately his arrest and conviction in 1962, for conspiracy to overthrow the state.

I was not a messiah, but an ordinary man who had become a leader because of extraordinary circumstances. – Nelson Mandela

His early days, prior to his imprisonment, were the portent to much violence and bloodshed and for this, he was considered then, a terrorist.  There are those today who even still label him with this dark title yet, nothing could now be further from the truth.  He was often heard over the years, making various statements over how grateful he actually was for his incarceration, because it gave him a great deal of time to reflect and realize what an angry, hateful and hurtful young man he was and how it was not going to accomplish a single one of his goals for this world and for the people of South Africa he held so dear.

If there are dreams about a beautiful South Africa, there are also roads that lead to their goal.  Two of these roads could be named Goodness and Forgiveness. – Nelson Mandela

The life imprisonment term did not sit well with others and an international campaign lobbied for his release and in 1990.  After 27 years, Nelson Mandela once again breathed the fresh air of freedom, giving him the opportunity to go forth in peace, and act on his desire to make change with positive actions, not destruction and violence.

In 1993, Nelson Mandela, with Frederik Willem de Klerk, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, “for their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa.”

There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered. – Nelson Mandela

When I started writing this peace, I mentioned it to a friend of mine who, without pause, says to me with some vehemence, “while writing it you must remember he was a terrorist.”  This set me off my game some, surprising me, because my own knowledge of the man was not this, nor did the written history suggest that he was, save his early beginnings that were swiftly squelched.

So, I went to my mother who was a teenager in the 60’s and to date is a staunch Republican (like my friend) and I asked her for her opinion on Nelson Mandela – from her perspective forged through a life of living through the events of the man’s life.  I think I was expecting her to say something similar, but wow did she surprise me.  She looked at me and with vehemence of her own says to me, “he was a great man!”

I detest racialism, because I regard it as a barbaric thing, whether it comes from a black man or a white man. – Nelson Mandela.

No, the conversation did not end there, suffice it to say, her recollections mirrored the public record, but in the end, she reinforced my own thoughts and beliefs, that here was a man who as a young adult, as happens to so many of us, started out on the wrong path, yet instead of taking what so many turn to poison in their souls (incarceration), became the best of us and brought about peaceful change that’s lasted decades.

His passing marks the end of an era and he will be missed.  And though I am not black, it is with great hope that I look to the future, as should we all, because of Nelson Mandela.

Let freedom reign.  The sun never set on so glorious a human achievement. – Nelson Mandela.

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