“I hate race discrimination most intensely and in all its manifestations. I have fought it all during my life; I fight it now, and will do so until the end of my days.” ~ Nelson Mandela, from a 1962 court statement

Nelson Mandela guardianlv dot com
Nelson Mandela (from guardianlv.com)

“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom (1995)
July 18, 1918 to December 5, 2013

I have always been in awe of this great man. I remember the protests at the South African Embassy in 1984 when it became de rigueur to be arrested for protesting against apartheid. We were living in Northern Virginia at the time, so it was constantly on the local news. By the time the protests began, Nelson Mandela had been in prison for over 20 years, having been convicted in 1964 and sentenced to life imprisonment for conspiracy and sabotage against the state of South Africa along with Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada, Raymond Mhlaba, Govan Mbeki, Elias Motsoaledi, Denis Goldberg and Andrew Mlangeni. Mandela was released in 1990, after spending 27 years in prison.

In 1993 Nelson Mandela and Frederik Willem de Klerk were awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace “for their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa.”

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”

But it was what happened in 1994 that really sticks with me: South Africa’s first free elections. The news reports and images were powerful, and they have stayed with me all these years.

Voters line up outside the polling station in the black township of Soweto during South Africa’s first democratic elections, in 1994. Photograph by Denis Farrell/AP

It was not until April of 1994 that South Africa’s first all-race elections were held. Lines for the election stretched for more than a mile in some areas and with voters waiting up to 12 hours to cast their ballots in others. Though many feared violence would erupt, over the four day election period from April 26 to April 29, but peace remained in tact. More than 17 million black South Africans over the age of 18 voted for the first time during those four days (from Avoice)

I remember the historical first free election in South Africa in 1994, the articles about the long lines of people waiting hours and hours for the privilege of voting. The election lasted over four days because that’s how long it took to process everyone who wanted to vote.

“My parents never saw this day. My husband never saw this day,” regretted Mildred Motsuenane, a blind, arthritic mother of 10 children. The gray-haired woman was weeping in triumph after balloting in a church in the Soweto ghetto that was ringed and ringed again by a patient throng. Emerging into the sunlight, she could not see how elegantly the lines of voters laced the hillside sprawl of the dirt-road town.

Elderly Black Voter Casts his Vote in 1994 SA BBC AP
An elderly black man is supported while casting his vote (1994, BBC/AP)

For a long time, my bulletin board at work held a copy of a quote from one of the oldest individuals to vote in the election. Unfortunately, I cannot remember what the quote said or what happened to it; I just remember that it made me misty-eyed. I have tried to include some contextual articles below for those of you who do not remember those incredible days in 1994.

Over 17 million people voted; can you imagine that many people in our country voting? Standing in line for hours and hours, no shelter, no seating? I can’t see that happening here. Here are a few of the quotes from voters that I could find:

Vote for Democracy by Hamilton Budaza 1994 ink on paper
“Vote for Democracy” (1994, ink on paper)
by Hamilton Budaza

“I have waited all of my life for this day. No long queue is going to stop me.” ~ unknown voter

“I am so happy to have lived to see this day. It is the day Mandela is coming to us.” ~ Albert Madiwane, 108, voting for the first time in his life

“We’ve been waiting five hours, but other people have been waiting 40 years.”~ Thomas Lethiba, 24, a Soweto voter

“It’s finished, it’s finished, for the first time in 82 years. At the age of 82 I am free!” ~ Martha Motseli, voting for the first time in her life

“That was one of the things that worried me—to be raised to the position of a semi-god—because then you are no longer a human being. I wanted to be known as Mandela, a man with weaknesses, some of which are fundamental, and a man who is committed.”

In the U.S. we take for granted what other countries are willing to die for: basic human rights, democracy, free speech, clean drinking water, medical care, books . . . As a country, we choose to elevate our athletes and movie stars to positions of fame and fortune. We adore the moneyed, and we forgive their sins so easily (Wall Street, anyone?). We want our politics to be uncluttered and easy.

Nelson Mandela became a hero the hard way. He believed in an idea, and he worked tirelessly for that idea until the day he died. Mandela was the voice and face of freedom for so many. His death is a loss for peoples of all nations and creeds.


Recommended Reading (from me), specifically on Mandela:

Context on key events surrounding apartheid and South Africa:

And of course, the quotes:

“If you fear making anyone mad, then you ultimately probe for the lowest common denominator of human achievement.” ~ Jimmy Carter

Pamela J. Smith and R.E. Wall Sitting in front of Offensive Miller Valley School Mural titled “Go on Green” in Prescott, Arizona



“If we accept and acquiesce in the face of discrimination, we accept the responsibility ourselves. We should, therefore, protest openly everything . . . that smacks of discrimination or slander.” ~ Mary McLeod Bethune

In 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “The nation is sick; trouble is in the land, confusion all around . . .” And luckily in the years that followed, we, as a country, seemed to find a way to curb that sickness. Unfortunately, we did not eradicate it. Unfortunately, King’s words from over 40 years ago seem to be just as relevant today as they were then. Unfortunately, each day when I peruse the news, I find more and more instances of a society that seems to be losing its way.


Unfortunately, the following story (as related in a column on Wonkette) is true, and it is so bleeping offensive to sane people, that I am not going to summarize, or pick and choose which parts to repeat. The whole thing needs to be repeated and spread far and wide because folks, we’re losing it, here. So here it is, verbatimm, courtesy of Wonkette:

Arizona School Demands Black & Latino Students’ Faces On Mural Be Changed To White

Hard to find even the Gallows Humor in this story, so maybe we won’t even try. Maybe it’s time to admit that large chunks of America are in the hands of unreconstructed racists and vulgar idiots, and that the popular election of a black man as president just might’ve pushed these furious, economically doomed old white people into a final rage that is going to end very, very badly. Ready? Here you go: An Arizona elementary school mural featuring the faces of kids who attend the school has been the subject of constant daytime drive-by racist screaming, from adults, as well as a radio talk-show campaign (by an actual city councilman,* who has an AM talk-radio show) to remove the black student’s face from the mural, and now the school principal has ordered the faces of the Latino and Black students pictured on the school wall to be repainted as light-skinned children.

This is America, in 2010, and there’s a dozen more states and endless white-trash municipalities ready to Officially Adopt this same Official Racist Insanity.

From the Arizona Republic:

A group of artists has been asked to lighten the faces of children depicted in a giant public mural at a Prescott school. The project’s leader says he was ordered to lighten the skin tone after complaints about the children’s ethnicity ….

R.E. Wall, director of Prescott’s Downtown Mural Project, said he and other artists were subjected to slurs from motorists as they worked on the painting at one of the town’s most prominent intersections.

“We consistently, for two months, had people shouting racial slander from their cars,” Wall said. “We had children painting with us, and here come these yells of (epithet for Blacks) and (epithet for Hispanics).”

The children depicted on the mural, as we mentioned before but feel compelled to repeat, are little kids who go to the school — “a K-5 school with 380 students and the highest ethnic mix of any school in Prescott. Wall said thousands of town residents volunteered or donated to the project.”

And these children, for the past several months as this happy mural encouraging “green transportation” was being painted by local artists, have been treated to the city of Prescott’s finest citizens driving by and yelling “Nigger” and “Spic” at this school wall painted with pictures of the children who attend the school. And this has been encouraged by a city councilman, Steve Blair, who uses his local radio talk show to rile up these people and demand the mural be destroyed.

And now the faces are being painted white, “because of the controversy.”

Remember where you were, when you could still laugh about teabaggers and racists and Arizonans, because funny time is almost over. If the unemployment keeps up — one in five adult white males has no job and will never have a job again — and people keep walking away from their stucco heaps they can’t afford and the states and cities and counties and towns keep passing their aggressive racist laws to rile up the trash even more, shit’s going to very soon become very bad, and whether it’s the National Guard having wars in the Sunbelt Exurbs against armies of crazy old white people who are finally using their hundreds of millions of guns, or whole Latino neighborhoods burned to the ground the way the Klan used to burn down black neighborhoods a century ago, we are in for a long dark night and no light-colored paint is going to fix that. [AZCentral via Wonkette operative AZW88]

*To see the unbelievable comments by Councilman Steve-I-Hate-Diversity Blair, click here.

Unfortunately, I can think of no musical accompaniment for this.

More later. Peace.


“Pointless . . . like giving caviar to an elephant.” ~ William Faulkner

Statue of Virtus with Added Breastplate and Chastity Belt (why just cover the breast?), image by L. Liwag


“A little emasculated mass of inanity.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

Drug war? Not so much. Transportation woes? Not really. Losing military bases? Who cares . . . Unemployment figures? Zzzzzzzz. 

Official Virginia State Seal
VA Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli: "I'm a dorkfish"

Trivial stuff at best, or so it seems. The Virginia Attorney General, Ken Cuccinelli has decided that the best use of his time is to rework the state’s official seal. For those of you who know nothing of our seal, it features Virtus standing victoriously over Tyranny, a male figure on the ground in defeat, his crown fallen from his head. Beneath him is the motto Sic Semper Tyrannis: Thus Always to Tyrants. Virtus, or virtue, is clad in a blue tunic draped over one shoulder, her left breast exposed. 

Wait a minute . . . exposed left breast? Arghhh. It’s Janet Jackson all over again. Wardrobe malfunction of epic proportions. What were the Commonwealth’s founding fathers thinking? Why didn’t anyone stop Declaration of Independence signer George Wyethe before he took to exposing body parts? Everyone knows that an exposed left breast on a depiction of a mythical Roman goddess is going to cause unabated lust in all who look upon her. It’s like, well, like Jimmy Carter lusting in his heart. I’ll bet he glimpsed the Virginia seal. 

Seems Cuccinelli—the same man who openly questions President Obama’s citizenship, the chief law-enforcement officer who has rescinded protections for gays and lesbians at Virginia universities, the Commonwealth’s legal counsel who claims that homosexuals engage in behavior that is “intrinsically wrong” and offensive to “natural law”—that Cuccinelli, decided that the warrior’s garb was immodest, so he took it upon himself to fix it. Yep, all by himself, no consulting with other people or anything like that. 

Cuccinelli's New Better Seal

 At a recent meeting, Cuccinelli provided pins to his staff with a brand, spanking-new seal, a better seal, a modest seal on which Virtus’ bare bosom is no longer hanging out there, so to speak. On the new lapel pins Virtus’ bosom is covered by an armored breastplate. 

O thank the stars. I may be able to get a good night’s sleep now that that pressing issue has been dealt a firm blow. Who cares about oil spills, car bombs, or balancing budgets? We have modesty once again. 

Just a thought, though: Is Cuccinelli going to deal with that whole s&m imagery, you know, woman with weapon standing on supine man? 

Heh, heh, heh. 

More later. Peace

“O Happy Day,” from Sister Act 2. Perfect.