It hardly ever happens, that a man dies and the whole world kneels in genuine sorrow and honest tribute. The human race produces many remarkable individuals—artists and scientists, inventors and benefactors—but few of them possess a personal magnitude that reaches much beyond their immediate spheres of influence, and even fewer of them are political figures.
Nelson Mandela was of such a magnitude, such an irresistible magnetism that attracted people from all walks and stations of life. It came neither from great power like some world leaders or the great self-promotion of others. It came from a core blended from a courage beyond what most people can imagine, a humility that is almost impossible to find in a world such as ours, a conviction in something so much broader than the sort of strict ideology that fuels the careers of lesser men, and a compassion that was in-born and self-evident, rather than the cheap cologne some leaders splash on whenever it’s politically advantageous to do so.
Mandela wasn’t born his nations’ father; he grew into it, just as Gandhi grew from simple lawyer into an international icon, or Martin Luther King grew from a simple preacher into a universal symbol for so many others to adopt. And neither Gandhi, King nor Mandela set out purposely to become what they became. Nobody sane can intend to become such an epic figure as any of those three, especially when their goal is not domination or conquest, but peace and justice.
Peace and justice, it seems, have never been demanding priorities among the people who rule the world.
Yet it is exactly those qualities which drew most of the world to Mandela. It was his lifelong pursuit of those values that will set him forever apart from the general run of potentates and poobahs, presidents and premiers, and award him a place in that most revered pantheon of mortal men. That highest resting place, reserved for those who would sacrifice everything but their humanity for the lowliest of their human family—the weakest, the abused, the poorest, the desperate, the least with whom we all share this earth.
So no, it hardly ever happens, a moment in time like this—for a man to die and the whole world kneels in genuine sorrow and honest tribute. And don’t we have to wonder what those most unlike
Mandela must think when they see the ultimate respect the world pays to such a man? Especially those who crave for respect themselves, if only from the most elite of the human family—the highest, the abusers, the wealthiest, the powerful, those with the most—who as it so often seems only share this earth with the rest of us begrudgingly?
What must Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, and John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan—men who would sacrifice their very humanity to benefit the grabbers, the takers, the leave-nothing-behinders—what must be going through their minds when the world kneels to one so unlike themselves? Does it give them any pause at all—any introspection, any doubt—to witness that in the end, no man can ask for anything better than genuine sorrow and honest tribute?