With the passing of Nelson Mandela people the world over will comment in every medium possible about what he meant to the mural of history. Some of it will be informative, some will be self-serving, some will be a lot of hot wind, etc. If one studies history it is relatively easy to see him as one of the brightest lights of the past two centuries. For Americans, I believe his role combines elements of those of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Socrates, and George Washington. He was a giant of a man who represented humility and pragmatism.
It is possible to construct a scenario in which Barack Obama could not have been elected President without the work and representation of Nelson Mandela. Obama himself knows this.
To me, the most penetrating aspect of the life of Nelson Mandela is the way he was mistreated, demeaned, jailed, persecuted by a racist, right-wing, white machine, and after release from prison his prominent statements were about forgiveness and racial togetherness. Absolutely amazing.
As the United States struggles through a hardened ideology that prevents us from moving forward and realizing our vast potential, we would do well to take a clear, perhaps fresh, look at the words and representation of Nelson Mandela.
I must admit that I am tempted to tell the right-wingers to take a close look at the witness and expression of Nelson Mandela. Thus I would do the very thing that Mandela rose above. I would be passing judgment on those who did not agree with me politically, socially, economically, or even spiritually. People like Mitch McConnell and John Boehner immediately come to mind. I am tempted to say to them, "Look, look at what Mandela espoused!" In so doing I would overlook the need that I have to look and learn, to be understanding, compromising, honest, objective, etc. I would be stumbling over my own political and historical ego.
So, stepping back from my own shortcomings and prejudices, allow me to say this to all of us: learn from the example of Nelson Mandela. We would each learn to be better human beings.