Wednesday, December 11, 2013

No one is born to hate

   "No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

    Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, whose words those are, died last week. He was one of those very rare individuals among a world population of 6,973,738,433 people who stood out in his own time and likely for all time.  
    Translated loosely, Rolihlahla means troublemaker. A troublemaker who stands out was an accurate moniker. Mandela stood out when he spoke and worked against the oppression of black and colored South Africans by the Afrikaner government, despite the danger from its thuggish willingness to be as brutal as necessary to maintain its own kind of order.
    By and large, the white minority saw little problem with impoverished blacks-only townships, the massacre of blacks at Sharpeville, and the arrest and imprisonment of Mandela. He was labeled a terrorist who threatened the peace and stability of the nation. This was used to justify nearly 30 years of imprisonment.
    For most of those years, we citizens of the U.S. were quick to point out that while we had our racial problems, we were better than South Africa. But then Mandela was released and came to power, and South Africa became the shining example of what can be. Rather than revenge, Mandela chose reconciliation.
    In a July 2011 Atlantic magazine piece titled “South Africa after Mandela,” John Campbell wrote that Nelson Mandela’s South Africa is a genuine African success story. The world can only hope that Mandela’s gracious spirit will outlive the hatreds of a time not so long ago.
    How much better off might we all have been if Mandela had been released from prison decades earlier so that his message of peace and justice would have been heard even longer. With Mandela gone and economic times tougher, will civil war break out of the pent-up anger and hatred of any long conflict? Will the rest of us actually adopt his attitudes and live by them?
    Mandela chose another path. He proved that a nation can actually govern its affairs with hope rather than fear. We can only pray that the world might believe, like Mandela, that “love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

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