There is no need to add to the chorus of praise for Nelson Mandela. He deserves it all. I wonder, though, if some of the fervent singing is due not to who Mandela was, but to a sudden fear that the breed of politicians who rise to the rank of great statesmen has passed with him.
Mandela by his own insistence was not a saint. None of us are, of course, but his acknowledgment seemed a deliberate attempt to discourage a personality cult. While that puts him all the closer to sainthood, I’ll honor his self-assessment and merely accuse him of humility and wisdom.
Sadly, however, he undermined his claimed unsaintliness by refusing to serve more than one term as president. Perhaps he was just old enough to know better at that point, but even that would amount to uncommon wisdom. Not uncommon for an average person, but tragically uncommon for a politician.
It is that distinction, between common people and politicians, that grabs hold of me when I think of Mandela and his legacy. Continue reading
It’s Memorial Day again, and as good a time as any to reflect on the lives of so many people who died or were seriously disabled, mentally and physically, trying to make the world a better place. And each has my great respect and thanks for acting so selflessly.
At the same time, I’d like to tell anyone ready to follow in those footsteps: Please, don’t do it. At least not unless you are personally sure that it is absolutely necessary: that it will indeed make the world a better place and there is no other way. Otherwise, I, for one, would rather have you with us, working to make the world a better place in so many smaller but perhaps more effective ways, day by day by day.
A friend recently wrote a moving post after the dedication of a memorial to local residents killed in service. Continue reading
The concept of justice outlined in the last two posts grew out of the preceding discussion on the self. It deals with life as a whole, but does it apply on the scale of life as we live it day-to-day? Does it have anything to say, for instance, about the Trayvon Martin case, which is attracting so much attention?
I say “case” in particular, because whatever it is all about, it is not about justice for Trayvon. It is sadly too late for that, as it was all along. Continue reading
I was just reading about the film Green, described as a “visual essay” on the plight of orangutans, a very human-like species that is going extinct rapidly. I’d like to watch it, but I’m a mess already just reading about it. So many emotions… but we have to be careful of emotions.
I’m sure the film will have me blubbering at human cruelty. And while human cruelty is a terribly well-documented phenomenon, I think the vast majority of it is not intended as cruelty per se but the sad result of our fractured relationships with each other and the world. Continue reading
So let’s look beyond the crisis of the moment, and beyond US military involvement in one part of the world over the last 10 or so years. Let’s go back to the end of World War II, when the US emerged as the most powerful nation on earth. The Soviet Union stood a somewhat distant second, shackled to the restive Eastern Bloc with its leadership resented or hated even within its own borders.
The US did something smart. Instead of imposing harsh measures on Germany and Japan, as had been done to Germany at the end of World War I, it pursued economic engagement and recovery. Its two main foes became two main trading partners. Continue reading
So now it’s Iran, and maybe Syria? After Iraq and Afghanistan, and Libya. And can we throw a bit of Pakistan in there? We’re only talking wars here, or at least armed intervention. And only in the last 10 years or so (long after the Shah came and went). Can you really blame Muslims who see a US agenda to attack or control them? Of course, it might just be about controlling all that oil. Except that the US has all but turned a blind eye to the rights of Palestinians in “greater Israel” while squawking about the rights record of anyone it does not claim as an ally. And let’s just not mention who the primary targets of waterboarding and the whole Guantanamo/extra-territorial detention apparatus are. Continue reading