Whatever the reason, my personal bet is that the people who oppose something as simply respectful as waiting for a funeral procession to pass probably know very little if anything about Mandela. I doubt these people would be willing to serve 27 years in jail for freedom or risk being executed for this country because they stood up for social justice. I doubt they realize that in becoming the first black to lead his country, Mandela quoted words from one of our nation’s best known patriotic songs, “Let freedom ring.”
For all the things we Americans hear about our country from abroad, too often we don’t take stock in the notion that this country is still an inspiration to many who have lived in oppression. For crying out loud, Mandela almost died in it and easily could have. He simply outlived those around him.
There was a time in the 1970s when the South African issues began to hit home. Indiana University’s football highlight show had a curious sponsor — the South African currency known as the kruggerand. When apartheid represented the worst kind of white supremacy practiced on this planet, IU was taking money, or kruggerands as the sponsors would have it, from the very government that supported discrimination in its purest form.
South Africans learned from the United States that they had to have more than a free country. They learned when people in places like Indiana spoke up and bounced their sponsorship that their separate but unequal ways would no longer be tolerated by the world. The Ku Klux Klan was once credited with deciding the governor’s race in Indiana in the 1920s, but a half century later, Indiana had changed, even if South Africa hadn’t.
During apartheid, I received several copies of a South African government magazine while I was at the Pharos-Tribune. In its glossy pages, the faces featured were all white. It was a magazine that looked more like the Deep South of the United States in the 1950s than any country, let alone South Africa, in the 1980s.