What Didn’t Kill Him Made Him Stronger
by David Swanson
Nelson Mandela’s story, if told as a novel, would not be deemed possible in real life. Worse, we don’t tell such stories in many of our novels.
A violent young rebel is imprisoned for decades but turns that imprisonment into the training he needs. He turns to negotiation, diplomacy, reconciliation. He negotiates free elections, and then wins them. He forestalls any counter-revolution by including former enemies in his victory. He becomes a symbol of the possibility for the sort of radical, lasting change of which violence has proved incapable. He credits the widespread movement in his country and around the world that changed cultures for the better while he was locked away. But millions of people look to the example of his personal interactions and decisions as having prevented a blood bath.
Mandela was a rebel before he had a cause. He was a fighter and a boxer. Archbishop Desmond Tutu says that South Africa benefited greatly from the fact that Mandela did not emerge from prison earlier: “Had he come out earlier, we would have had the angry, aggressive Madiba. As a result of the experience that he had there, he mellowed. … Suffering either embitters you or, mercifully, ennobles you. And with Madiba, thankfully for us, the latter happened.” (more…)