Saturday, December 07, 2013

Hero, icon Nelson Mandela dies at 95

This was the headline of China Post today. Among the world’s leaders, few were more deserved than Mr. Mandela for such title.

I first heard of the name Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) in 1983 when I was studying for my master’s degree at Indiana University. My roommate, a South African Indian student of political science, introduced him to me. At that time, South Africa was under apartheid, a strict racial segregation system that allowed only white people to enjoy full political and economic rights. However,” my roommate used to say sarcastically, “your country (Taiwan) and the ‘white’ government are buddies.” Indeed, both countries were notorious globally for suppressing political dissidents. As Taiwan was still enforcing her world-record long martial law then and freedom of the press was only a term shown on the constitution, hardly were we able to read any reports about Robben Island, where Mandela and thousands of political prisoners were jailed and persecuted. We were also not aware that in South Africa, it was illegal to for a ‘white’ ambulance carrying wounded blacks to any hospital for emergency rescue; we were also not aware that some beaches were open to the white people only.

Although Mandela had spent almost one quarter of his life in the white prison, after he was released, instead of having white people pay back for what they did, he had been dedicating himself to the political stability and eternal peace of all peoples of South Africa. His exceptional high moral level made both assailants and victims of the unjust apartheid have enough courage to face the truth of the historical wound inflicted onto them. The apology and repentance of the assailants helped gain their legal pardon and conscientious release. The victims, by accepting the injuring party’s apology, also marked a period to their half-century long tragedy, walking out of the shadow of their wound and facing the future.  

Nelson Mandela was a true statesman, a true hero, and an icon. The world we are living has become better because of him. 

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