No, I do not have anything pithy or yet unsaid to say about Mr. Mandela, but rather, about his name. I learned only this morning that his Xhosa name meant "pulling the branch of a tree" but was more commonly interpreted as "troublemaker." I thought how fitting, and how honorable--or as they spell it in South Africa--honourable. We need a lot more of us pulling the branches of trees, doing some troublemaking--not the mischievous kind, but the kind Mr. Mandela did, fighting the wrongs of evil systems.
When I was home during Thanksgiving, I went up to the high school to take some photographs as I recently learned that the school was a New Deal project. It was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1939. Of course, one can not go to where one spent the majority of 4 years of your life without experiencing some thoughts and memories.
None of this is surprising, but it has stayed with me for two weeks now--the pain of remembering that, and the troubling pain of remembering less than that. It has been juxtaposed against the experience of apartheid--which I would also not know was raging on another continent as I walked the halls of this school, separated from students who were not the same color as I was, even in the same school building.
It is troubling that I would not learn of Soweto or Sharpstown or District Six until many years later, as an adult, when apartheid ended. Only yesterday did I learn of the music boycott of performing in South Africa and the song "I ain't gonna play sun city."
I cannot go back and undo what I did not do because I did not know. But I can make sure that I know now, and that I can stand with my co-troublemakers in exposing and opposing evil systems and evil things. There is a cost in speaking out, but it is not greater than the cost of failing to take action in the face of evil. There are way too many people still standing under the trees instead of at the front door.