The heart of the president’s tribute to Nelson Mandela was about moral responsibility. “Mandela makes me want to be a better man,” he said, focusing on the core personal dynamics of justice. In the end, what saved South Africa from both racial tyranny and revolution was not an ideology, but Mandela’s character, impish and yet restrained, radical and yet also forgiving. It’s the gestures you remember almost as much as the full, long history, with the summation being the attendance of his former prison guards at his inauguration. Maybe it’s because of Pope Francis’ spontaneous gestures of caritas, but I’m reminded rather starkly again how the power of simple acts of generosity and magnanimity should never be under-estimated.
And yes, sometimes you can miss the obvious: how conceivable was it in the mid-1980s that a two-term biracial American president would give a eulogy to the first black president of South Africa in the early 21st Century? Not very. But here we are.
I wondered if Sy Hersh is, once again, onto something, with his charges of cherry-picking intelligence before a proposed strike against Syria’s dictator? Susan Boyle was diagnosed with Asperger’s – which definitely makes sense of her extreme talent and her struggle to channel it. Ross Douthat detected a tipping point in Obama’s presidential reach; and the Chinese wondered where we get our panda obsession from.
I’m a little woozy from a routine medical procedure so forgive the relative lack of provocations today. Better to stay mum when on Vicodins.
I should add one thing about the post about Max Blumenthal’s reporting on extremist tendencies in Israel. The most troubling word to me in the video he put together was “infiltrators.” African migrants aren’t just illegal immigrants or unwelcome visitors – they’re deemed “infiltrators.” Malign motives are thereby broadly assigned to an entire group of people, and those motives are apparently the destruction of the Jewish state. That loaded word was used by some nasty racist demagogues in the film – but also, significantly, by the Israeli prime minister himself. I found it a deeply disturbing insight into how he sees the world, especially as we reflect on Mandela’s magnanimity and refusal to think in racial or ethnic categories.
See you in the morning.