Almost 50 years and two weeks ago, a funeral of a world leader was held in Washington, D.C. A President cut down in the prime of his life setting forth from a Camelot of Dreams, full pennants flying. Hard to make the statement that after losing a President to an assassin, the world was a safer place for its leaders, but the images of the escort of his casket of countless world leaders from Charles de Gaulle towering over Haile Selassie reminders that the nations of the world are composed not of lines on a globe but of people, all of whom share this planet and many common dreams and hopes regardless of language, physical attributes and needs, economic standing, or beliefs. Fear does not and cannot trump humanity.
Mandela's funeral once again pointed that out as even more leaders from around the globe descended on South Africa. Much more security this time but once again the death of a great leader was a magnet to bring together the leaders of the nations of this tiny globe in a common celebration of a great man’s life and accomplishments.
He was born in the last year of the War to End All Wars
Sadly, mankind failed bitterly on that hopeful score
Endured a system so punishing to his race
Spent 27 years in prison, a truly God-awful place
One would think he would want upon assuming power
To exact revenge for all humanity within must have soured
His greatness and his lasting eulogy that will for the ages endure
Lessons on how discrimination and exploitation one can cure
Revenge and vengeance may be emotions within us with deep roots
But a great man, a man of peace, a unifier can shed them like a cheap suit
If after decades of apartheid’s crushing blows
And years of prison he retained the seeds of unity to sow
Why then we who are not all in prison for our race or beliefs
Cannot in our lives and in our Capitols bring an end to this rhetoric and rancor grief?
An aisle is not an impassable barrier or moat
Light bulbs need to go on— we are all in the same boat!
Nelson, rest in peace and may your legacy be relived each and every day
All colors and beliefs together holding the forces of discrimination, revenge and vengeance at bay!
© December 10, 2013 Michael P. Ridley aka the Alaskanpoet