During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people," Mandela said. "I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die. – Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela died yesterday. He was an imperfect figure. But, he was a hero to South Africans. Sadly, during his time conservatives in the USA tried to classify him as a Communist, which he was not. He served as the democratically elected president of South Africa for five years after his release. And, he managed to overthrow the apartheid and most immoral government of white South Africa.
Sadly, conservatives tend to view revolutionaries in other countries as being Communist, or jihadists, or people ready to found the new Caliphate. Both with Nelson Mandela, and with various parts of the Arab Spring, conservatives have shown themselves to be quite wrong. Nelson Mandela chose to serve only one term as President and, when that term was done, he quietly retired just like George Washington did after two terms.
He is now regarded as a father of the nation of South Africa. Nevertheless, he himself admitted that the ANC was mistaken in some of the actions it undertook. At the same time, it is important that we remember that the “legally” elected government of South Africa regularly engaged in activities that were much worse than anything the ANC ever did. No, violence does not justify violence. But, violence does explain violence.
As with many human beings, his legacy will be mixed. But, there will be more of the heroic in it than there is in many human lives. And that is more than many of us will leave behind.