For John, BLUF: The secret to statesmanship is not perfection, but good enough. Nothing to see here; just move along.
South African leader Nelson Mandela has left this vail of tears for what many of us assume is a better place.
That said, his leaving has not been totally without controversy. There is the South Carolina Sheriff who won't lower the American Flag to half staff per the Presidential Directive. His argument actually makes some sense—US Embassy in South Africa yes, South Carolina no. [I would have lowered the flag] Then there is the reported negative feedback Ted Cruz, and other Republican politicians got saying nice things about Mr Mandela. On the other hand, Bishop Desmond Tutu wants to make him a saint. There is a reason sainthood waits a while after death.♠
Mr Mandela was a freedom fighter in his native land (read terrorist to those in power). The thing that sets him apart is that after winning the fight he worked for reconciliation between former enemies. In addition, he managed to not destroy his nation's economy while in charge. Further, he served his term and then stepped down, unlike the example set by many others on his continent. In US terms, he was a real George Washington.♥
On the other hand, a fair observer will note that all is not perfect in South Africa and the citizens of that nation have a ways to go before they achieve a totally harmonious nation. This does not make them unique.
For those who think the government was more rationale under the previous, Afrikaner, Administrations, it should be kept in mind that while they fought on the same side as the rest of us in WWI, WWII and Korea, there was a lot of pro-German sympathy in the nation. Not all were saints. At the same time, credit to President F W de Klerk for a peaceful handover to the African National Congress and its leader, Mr Nelson Mandela.
There are a lot of really unhappy nations out there. South Africa could have been one of them, but thanks to Nelson Mandela, and others, it is not. So, high praise to Mr Mandela. He deserves to be up there in that modern pantheon, along with Mahatma Gandhi and the Reverend Martin Luther King.
Rest in Peace, Mr Mandela. Regards — Cliff
♠ And a reason buildings should not be named after people who are still alive. We just don't yet know all the facts, facts that only time will reveal.
♥ Historian Crane Brinton tells us that revolutions go through a First (Moderate) Stage, then a Second (Radical) Stage and finally a Third (Recovery) Stage. The second stage includes a terror phase, when executions abound (Think French Revolution, Russian Revolution, China and Cambodia). Mr Mandela avoided that "Second Stage" through his statesmanship.