I remember the days of Apartheid and all of the conflicting feelings I had at the time. Knowing something of the history of the continent I really did want to see those with roots in the deep past take more control without throwing out the generations of people who had lived, worked, bled and died for countries they thought of as their own. Being an American, I understand how deeply I feel for my home even though I know that my ancestors created heartache and pain, and sometimes utter destruction, for those who were here before. It is my home, not Switzerland, England, Ireland, Germany or Croatia. I truly know no other than this battered and often arrogant land.
Mandela, I believe, seemed to understand something of the balance; something of the historical claim of both kinds of “natives.” He also understood that your victory can be a very vacuous and self-destructive one if, once you’ve won, you do unto others as they have done to you. He understood that breaking the cycle of hatred begins at home, with “me.”
There is a quote from his life and a powerful film about his early years as a leader. The movie starring Morgan Freemen, Invictus (Latin for unconquered), is an amazing snap shot of a life lived to free a country. The poem by William Ernest Henley is here quoted in its entirety:
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
We should all remember that – it is a choice, but an important one – to accept responsibility for the choices we make and not place the blame or praise entirely at another’s feet. Choose to be a force in this world that heals, that supports, that cares. Whatever faith you practice, you choose what kind of impact you make on this world. Choose well.