"Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again."
That was a magical moment to which no other writer has referred but one I will never forget.
The US Government gave millions in aid and weapons to Bin Laden and his cohorts, mostly because "any enemy of our enemy is our friend," but to support a 1986 Congressional bill to use sanctions against South Africa required a debate with some notable dissenters.
We have a country of spoiled, entitled individuals, who ignore the most important and pressing issues of the day, like environmental sustainability, for example, with complete and purposeful oblivion.
But President Obama certainly grasps Mandela's message quite clearly (quoting from his speech):
These ideas align well with my teacher Susun S. Weeds' words in her world-wide, best selling book Healing Wise: "We make them [our enemies] our allies. In the Wise Woman tradition, we eliminate enemies. We eliminate them by accepting all their gifts, by feasting on the nourishment they offer. . . .we gain cooperation from our enemies by respecting their unique reality. They become our supporters." Can you think of anyone who embodies that spirit better than Nelson Mandela?
"Honor your enemies.
It is they who make you strong and wise."
Susun S. Weed
Even the story of Leslie Schwartz, chronicled so often in this blog, resonates with these themes; the former childhood Holocaust survivor who has found healing and peace (and recognition and respect) from students, educators and political leaders alike in Germany. Right from the earliest days of his imprisonment in Auschwitz and Dachau, he always sought to understand his relationship to his enemies, how their survival would one day be connected to his. It took almost 70 years for his ideas to gain resonance with a new generation of Germans, those seeking to heal from WW II in ways previously thought unimaginable, but the dreams of a 14 year old once slated for extermination in death camps have come true for the 83 year old man who has survived and thrived, long after his former enemies have passed away.
We should look to Mandela and all he stood for to make the world a better place. We desperately need what he offered. We must stop seeing "us" and "them." The nature of the difficulties we currently face on this planet requires cooperation and mutual respect.
"Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies."