His name was banned
There is only one person ever who has won the Nobel Peace Prize, Order of Lenin (the highest honor of the Soviet Union) and the US Presidential Medal of Freedom (the highest civilian honor in the US). And for over 20 years it was illegal to say his name or publish his picture in his home country.
Margret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan called him a terrorist. Dick Cheney voted against the resolution to release Mandela from jail. But this is unsurprising; Mandela was a Marxist. Besides fighting for the end of the racist Apartheid regime in South Africa, he also supported labor unions, redistribution of wealth and Fidel Castro. Conservative leaders were right to be afraid of him.
Nor did Mandela forget his roots when he came to power. In 2003, when Bush was promising to liberate Iraq’s people, Mandela said, “All that he wants is Iraqi oil.” When Bush declared Iraq’s alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons a threat to the planet, Mandela had the bad manners to remind Bush that the only country to have actually used nukes was the United States. Mandela’s message to America’s leaders, born from firsthand experience, was clear: Don’t pretend you are pure.
I was at Twin Oaks on Feb 11, 1990 when i saw a little note on the 3 X 5 board which read:
Today, Nelson Mandela is Free
I was amazed! Partly because i did not think the South Africa government would actually release him. I was convinced that letting Mandela out was admitting they had overstepped and that that meant Apartheid was coming down. And as it turned out, this came to pass, just about this way.
The Marxist became a democrat (though Mandela had always advocated multiracial and multiparty elections). The political prisoner became head of state. And those of us who believe in the power of hope had a new inspiration.
Rest in peace, Nelson. And thanks for all your work.
Other excellent coverage on the complex man who was Nelson Mandela:
Think Progress: The Right Wing’s Campaign Against Mandela
Think Progress: Six Things Mandela Believed That Don’t Get Talked About
Al Jazeera: Mandela the Radical