Goodbye Nadine Gordimer (November 12, 1923 – July 14, 2014)
I’m fairly certain that I learned of Gordimer through Mari. As usual, she was so right in her recommendations. Gordimer’s work was simply beautiful, her mastery of language enviable. In 1991, Gordimer wond the Nobel Prize for Literature. She was the first South African to win, and the first woman in 25 years to win. Gordimer was an outspoken opponent of apartheid, and as a result, three of her books were banned in her country. In 1991, Los Angeles Times correspondent Scott Kraft said of Gordimer that “this unassuming, strong-willed white woman has used her manual Hermes typewriter to give the world some of the most perceptive and uncompromising works of fiction ever written about her homeland, South Africa.” After his release from prison, Nelson Mandela asked to meet with Gordimer. Here is a link to Gordimer’s essay on Nelson Mandela, which appeared in the New Yorker in 2013.
Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the Nobel Laureate:
“I’m a candle flame that sways in currents of air you can’t see. You need to be the one who steadies me to burn.” (from The House Gun)
“At four in the afternoon the old moon bleeds radiance into the grey sky.” (from “My Father Leaves Home”)
“The truth isn’t always beauty, but the hunger for it is.” (from “A Bolter and the Invincible Summer”)
“Any writer of any worth at all hopes to play only a pocket-torch of light — and rarely, through genius, a sudden flambeau — into the bloody yet beautiful labyrinth of human experience, of being.” (from “Writing and Being,” Nobel Lecture, 1991)
“A desert is a place without expectation.” (from “Telling Times”)
“I never thought about the prize [Nobel] when I wrote. Writing is not a horse race.” (after learning that she had won in 1991)
“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.
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.
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:
“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:
“Don’t be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Life is like a game of cards. The hand that is dealt you represents determinism; the way you play it is free will.” ~ Jawaharlal Nehru
Massive thunderstorms this afternoon. Loud thunder booms, but no major downpours in our area. The flower garden could use a good dousing. Corey was out doing errands and said that it was raining hard in other parts of the city, but nothing here.
Eamonn is disgustedly happy to have the Trooper back in his possession, even though I told him that we still need to do a few things to it. I’m hoping that the smoke coming out of it is leftover from the problems that we just had fixed and that once it gets a good drive on the Interstate, she’ll start to run like her old self again. Corey said something about the rings, which sounds expensive. I’m ignoring that pronouncement in favor of bad gas (for the Trooper, not me).
I’ve been pricing tires, and of course, what we need won’t be cheap. Nothing ever is. Moving right along . . .
“Three grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.” ~ Joseph Addison
Tomorrow night Corey, Brett, and I are going to eat sushi and then go see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. This is part of Brett’s birthday present. He is the only one of the kids who actually likes sushi, so that gives us something to look forward to this weekend.
On other fronts, I happen to know that Janson and his wife are currently in the hospital awaiting the birth of their daughter Aurelia. He has been Twittering about the progress most of the afternoon. I love the name Aurelia. It lilts on the tongue and sounds like a fairy.
My friend Maureen who lives in Australia is awaiting news from her doctor, so I’m keeping a good thought for her as well. And David Bridger’s wife Janette is scheduled for surgery at the end of July. Finally.
Even though the medical system in this country needs fixing, I have found from hearing from people in other places that national healthcare does have some major drawbacks—like waiting for operations that are necessary or having some doctors refuse to do procedures that must be performed by other doctors. However, I still believe that this country needs a healthcare system that is available to all, and not just to those who can afford to pay the premiums.
As usual, the blogging community is awash with action. My best to everyone. I’m keeping all of you in my thoughts.
“It is what we make of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.” ~ Nelson Mandela
Okay, this topic is from David Bridger as well: You are stranded on a desert island, and you can only take ten things. You are one of the ten things. Who or what would you take with you? I’m assuming that food will be on the island so we don’t have to worry about that.
I’m thinking that I need a few different versions of this because, as you know, I have such a hard time making up my mind.
List One: This one is compiled with the understanding that I am not alone in the world, that I have family and pets.
Corey, Alexis (and her significant other), Eamonn, and Brett plus myself. That’s six right there. Must have family with me on this desert island.
Tillie, Alfie and Shakes. Another three. Must have the dogs, even though they take up three spots.
My Lord of the Rings (three books but one story so it only counts as one. I know. I cheat). Must have reading material. But I would give up the books, I suppose, if my sons had companions.
List Two: This one is compiled with the understanding that I am alone in the world, no pets or family
My Lord of the Rings (1)
A copy of The Odyssey (because I’ve never made it all of the way through) (1)
Lots of writing paper and something with which to write (2)
A fully-loaded MP3 player and back-up solar batteries (3) (Do solar batteries exist?)
A huge bottle of 4711 cologne to remind me of civilization (odd choice, I know) (1)
A dog for companionship (1)
List Three: This one is compiled with the understanding that I must take that which I need to survive and gather food
A machete (1)
Two dogs, male and female (2)
Lots of writing paper and something with which to write (2)
A spade (1)
Something reflective (1)
A bottle of 5,000 Ibuprofen (since I cannot have all of my meds) (1)
Now the reality is that if I were to be stranded on a desert island a la Castaway, I would hope that some things washed up on shore with me, one of which should be my carryall bag. I could survive months with just the contents of my carryall bag as it contains meds, scissors, a mirror, candy, a pocket knife, my inhaler, a notebook and lots of pens, a mini screwdriver, and sunglasses.
In Lola’s system of counting, the carryall bag counts as one thing just as the Lord of the Rings counts as one thing.
And if I had my purse as well as my carryall bag, I would be in fine shape. Also, if I washed up on a desert island wearing the things that I usually leave the house with, I would have a watch, my glasses, my cross, some earrings (okay, those I can do without), and probably a book and/or notebook.
Look, I’ve always been a pack rat, ever since grade school when I decided that I needed to take a satchel to school filled with things that I might need. Alexis inherited this tendency, so if she were with me and we got stranded, you can bet that we’d have a lot of things one might need just in case.
I’m not sure about the whole ice skate as dental tools as in Castaway, but the blades would be handy as would the laces. Don’t know if I have it in me to use an ice skate as a dental tool. But unlike Tom Hanks’s character in the movie, I wouldn’t be waiting to open all of the Fed Ex boxes. He was being honorable.
I say that if you are stranded, sealed Fed Ex boxes are fair game. Although given that attitude, the boxes that would wash up on shore with me would probably be things like government proposals, mortgage payments, and car parts. I’m not sure that side steps for a truck would come in that handy on an island . . .
“What is important in life is life, and not the result of life.” ~ Johann Wolfgang Goethe
I wish that my lists were more creative, but I think that they actually reflect more about me than at first glance. For example, I could survive without another person with me as long as I had a dog to keep me company. Implements with which to write and record things are very important to me. My choice of a machete instead of just a plain knife show that I am my father’s daughter.
Granted, wanting to take along a bottle of cologne might seem crazy, but if I had nothing else on this island to remind me of home, a smell would suffice. Smells are very important to humans: they conjure happy thoughts, trigger memories, even help with digesting food. The German cologne 4711 would do that for me. It would allow me to remember that piece of me that once belonged to society.
And if possible, having an MP3 player that is full of my personal music choices would serve as a connection to the world. I would have Chopin and Beethoven, the Beatles and Bruce Springsteen, Sarah McLachlan and Annie Lennox, Pavoratti and Broadway musicals. Music, in its varied forms, is communication, and it is something that is universal.
Having music with me would help to alleviate the loneliness, even if there were no chocolate to be found anywhere.
I wonder what other members of my family would choose to take: How Brett would survive without electronics . . . How Eamonn would survive without his cell phone . . . What Alexis would choose of her multitude of things that she must have . . . What Corey would want with him for the rest of his life . . .
Each list would be very different. Of that, I am certain. What and who we value as people is as varied as the sunrises. Not surprisingly. After all, it is that which makes us individuals, unique and the same, as unpredictable as the tides.
Okay, so I’m not a tremendous Jack Black fan, but I do think the guy is funny. But when I saw his latest role, it almost made Pepsi come out of my nose. I know that the clip has already gone viral, but it’s worth talking about just because of the actors who gave time to participate in it. “Proposition 8—The Musical” is a star-studded video that was written by Marc Shaiman, Tony-award winner of “Hairspray” and directed by Adam Shankman, and the actors play supporters and foes of Prop 8.
John C. Reilly and Allison Janney lead the gay marriage foes, who all happen to be dressed in Sunday best dark clothes. The “gays,” who include Margaret Cho, Maya Rudolph, Andy Richter, and Nicole Parker, are dressed in bright colors and look more like hippie protesters. And then Jack Black drops in as Jesus.
Black’s Jesus points out the hypocrisy of picking and choosing certain parts of the Bible to follow, for example the outdated notion of stoning people for their sins. Neil Patrick Harris acts as a type of Greek Chorus for the anti-gays, pointing out the economic advantages to gay marriage: “Every time a gay or lesbian finds love at the parade, there’s money to be made.”
Shaiman said that he felt some guilt over the referendum, which prompted him to act: “I had just been taught this terrible bitter lesson about being lazy, and it lit a fire under my fat ass.” Subsequently, he wrote the piece in one day, recorded it the next and shot it in a single day in another week. Shaiman’s, in commenting on his mini-musical, declared, “If I’m going to stand on the soap box, at least let me sing and dance.” As Shaiman said on Keith Olbermann, the passage of Proposition 8 was kind of a slap in the face: “Election night, America throws this great party, and the gays [were] left off the list.”
Truth and Consequences
The video has been called a “viral picket sign.” Personally, I think that it’s one of the boldest and best statements to come out against Proposition 8. Yes, it’s very in your face, as it’s supposed to be, but it’s also funny. The fact that we’re still trying to legislate against gay marriage in this country truly distresses me. Marriage, like many other things, should be a personal, private choice. People do not choose to be gay; they are born that way. To condemn them for something over which they have no choice or control does not seem to me to be either loving or forgiving.
Living is hard enough under the best of circumstances. Who are we to make those circumstances harder for other people simply because they want to live life just like anyone else: a house, a mortgage, life insurance policies, health insurance, maybe some children? I’ve known a lot of straight people who had no business being married. Their relationships were completely dysfunctional. They treated each other like crap, and their children suffered greatly because of it. There is nothing that says a marriage between a man and a woman is going to be perfect or better than a marriage between two women or two men. I know two men who have been together for a very long time and are married in every way except legally. They own property together, make all major decisions together, have friends together, love each other, have arguments just like any other couple. Worry over finances and whose family they will visit over the holidays. What makes their union different, or worse, wrong?
Look them in the face and tell them that their love for each other isn’t good enough. That their life together doesn’t count. That what they have isn’t real. That one of them wouldn’t grieve over the death of the other. You cannot do it because it simply isn’t true.
The far right fundamentalists have very rigid ideas about the Bible and heaven and hell and right and wrong, and that is certainly their right. That is what this country is based on: religious and individual freedom. Far be it for me to say that they do not have the right to believe in the things in which they believe. The Mormons in Utah who poured so much money into getting Proposition 8 passed in California have the right to believe what they wish to believe as well. But it troubles me that there was a definitive blurring of church and state in this case, especially over state lines in which the LDS from UTAH came into CALIFORNIA and worked fervently for the passage of Prop 8. It seems that there should be some ramifications for the LDS church if they did not set up a separate entity to cover those massive donations.
The Circles of Hell
Essentially, according to basic theology of fundamentalism, just about all of the rest of us are going to hell: Jews, Catholics, Muslims, those who have not been born again, gays, people like me who prefer to keep my beliefs personal and private, and pretty much anyone who hasn’t answered the call to be born again. It’s a big list. On the other hand, for Muslims, all of the infidels will be going to hell. For Catholics, I’m not sure who goes to hell. Methodists and Presbyterians are a little more open about it, I believe. Buddhists don’t believe in hell. Episcopalians are pretty close to Catholics, so I don’t know how that works, but I think that there’s purgatory in there somewhere. Unsure about Judaism. I know that a lot of the gay community worship at Unitarian Churches, so maybe there are no stipulations about hell. I think with LDS you go to hell if you do something against the prophet, and Quakers, well they’re so peaceful, I’m not sure how they would end up in hell.
I don’t even want to ponder which parts of hell where we’ll all land. It’s much too complicated and sometimes tedious, but Dante’s was very meticulous in creating places for everyone, so trust me when I say that no one should feel left out.
My point is this: why are we so concerned with who is going to hell? Shouldn’t we be more concerned with our own paths? I mean, my path has been pretty rocky. I know that I haven’t been a saint, but neither have I been a great sinner. In living my life, I would think that judgment for others is the last thing that I have time on which to dwell. I’m still acutely aware that my journey is not even remotely over. Like Frost, I “took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”
If we’ve learned nothing in the past few months, then perhaps we need to go back a little bit farther in time. For example, let’s take a look at one man who spent 27 years in a prison cell unjustly and never gave up hope, who came out still believing in the goodness of people, in equality for all, and the possibility of change:
“Our single most important challenge is therefore to help establish a social order in
which the freedom of the individual will truly mean the freedom of the individual.
We must construct that people-centered society of freedom in such a manner
that it guarantees the political liberties and the human rights of all our citizens.”
~ Nelson Mandela
Speech at the opening of the South African parliament, Cape Town25 May 1994.