The death of Nelson Mandela made me think of Mom. We did some things together when I was a kid, but there were usually other brothers involved, or she just didn’t have time for an outing because she worked hard. When the boys all moved out, I’d go back home to visit, and me and Mom would go out for a walk around the Crystal Springs Reservoir or do something else. In the summer of 1990, she announced with a giggle of excitement that we were going to see Nelson Mandela who had just been released after 27 years in prison. She’d bought tickets for the two of us on the field at the Oakland Coliseum.
Willie Brown, flamboyant San Francisco mayor, spoke. Ron Dellums, radical representative, spoke. Harry Belafonte sang. They tried to make a cause-effect connection between the anti-apartheid movement in the U.S. and the changes the ANC demanded in South Africa. They passed the hat. Then the Great Man came to the microphone and stunned us with his presence. He explained the suffering of his people. He asked us for help. He thanked us. He repeated One Person, One Vote. He warmed our hearts. Then he left.
The cheering crowd was silent walking back to their cars. Mom felt like she’d witnessed an historical event. I was glad we’d done it together. I get my progressive politics from my mother. I get other things too, like my love of the Sierras and walking, libraries and baseball.
Did Mom need to be present when Mandela came because of her childhood in multi-racial Berkeley? Of course. And her college friend Bev who fell in love and married a black man in about 1950, who was disowned by her family and had only one friend left in the world, only one person attending the wedding, Mom.
Was my experience that day enhanced because, as you read below (way down), I spent the summer of 1975 in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) during the civil war that lasted twenty years? Of course. The social make-up of that country was similar to neighboring South Africa at the time, but the future would be almost the opposite. Zimbabwe in 2013 still has no peace (see Robert Mugabe); South Africa is an example of prosperity and multiethnicity … thanks to the man who would be, a few years later and for a few years only, President Nelson Mandela.
So thanks Mom. I can say I was there. We were there.
Happy trials, Martin
Mutt: Hey Jeff, you ever eat Scottish-Asian food?Jeff: I know where this is going.
Mutt: Where does McDonald's get its burgers from?
Mutt: Okay, how did Hitler tie his laces?
Mutt: In little Nazis.
Jeff: Hilarious. How did the dentist become a brain surgeon? Give up? His drill slipped.
Mutt: Okay, how many sides does a circle have? Two: an inside and an outside.
Jeff: You didn’t give me time to answer. What are half-sized quartz watches?
Mutt: Pintz watches?
Jeff: I don’t get it.
Mutt: You told it. Okay, what are tired Army clothes?
Jeff: Too easy. Fatigues. What city has the largest rodent population? You won’t get this.
Mutt: What cruises down the riverbed at 60 mph?
Jeff: A motorpike with two side carps.
Mutt: You’re good. What did Godzilla say after eating a four-cylinder Datsun?
Jeff: No idea.
Mutt: "Gosh, I could have had a V-8!"
Jeff: What did the alien dandelion say to the Earth dandelion?
Mutt: "Take me to your weeder!"
Jeff: Then what did the guitar say to the musician?
Mutt: "Pick on someone your own size!" Got you.
Jeff: Shut up.
Mutt: You shut up.
Jeff: You shut up.