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Lessons We Should Learn From Gandhi, King and Mandela

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  • Strongly Liberal
    Seattle, WA
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    Following the death of that great hero, Nelson Mandela, one of the most profound lessons we all should learn from him is the public forgiveness of his worst enemies – those racist Apartheid leaders who imprisoned him for 27 years.

    Mandela emerged as a hero after he was released from prison for two main reasons. One was that he publicly forgave the oppressors and his captors, and the other reason he emerged as a heroic leader was because of the kind of martyrdom he endured by being wrongly and cruelly imprisoned. It was for both those reasons that Mandela achieved such heroic status.

    In that sense, Mandela fits Joseph Campbell’s archetypal mono-myth of the hero’s journey, having suffered and overcome, even to the point of essentially saying, as Jesus did, “Forgive them, Lord, for they know not what they do.

    That is the hardest thing for a human being to do, because our inclination and tendency is to hate our oppressors and enemies, and to seek revenge. That is why we all need to learn the lesson of forgiveness from Mandela and all others who understood why the wisest ones have always said revenge is not Man’s to take, only forgiveness will bring redemption, and only love will overcome hate.

    Martin Luther King Jr. understood that, which is why he said: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness, in a descending spiral of destruction."

    The problem is that most people these days don’t want to hear the Golden Rule, or the Universal Divine Imperative, which is that we should treat all others as we would want to be treated if we were them. Many of us on the Left label all the greedy misers, deceptive demagogues, hypocrites, bigots, hatemongers, warmongers and wicked wrongdoers, but we’ve become so enraged that we demonize them and don’t see them as the corrupted brothers and sisters that they are.

    Granted, many of them deserve to be and must be brought to justice, and some deserve to be imprisoned. And they certainly won't deserve forgiveness unless and until they realize and acknowledge the error of their ways, and change their ways.

    However, since the day is coming when they will face the music and have to face the truth, when that happens we need to realize that in order for us to sustain our society in a reasonable way, we must forgive them -- even those who have caused us the most suffering.

    That would be honoring the spirit of Nelson Mandela. It would be honoring the spirit of Jesus of Nazareth. It would be honoring the Universal Spirit of love, mercy and goodness, or the real God by any other name. And it would also be honoring the spirit of the Mahatma Mohandas Gandhi, who wisely said: "First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win."

    Few human beings finally realize and receive real wisdom. They realize what sounds insane to egocentric, self-important, self-righteous people -- that we should turn the other cheek, and love even our enemy. But we can all try to understand why.

    In other words, we can take the high road. But we must still keep up the pressure on our enemies, until we overcome. We must speak truth to power, and expose greed, lies, hypocrisy and bigotry. But let us keep in mind that it is best to do it as a matter of fact, without malice, and seeing reconciliation as a light at the end of the tunnel. And when they are toppled and leveled, we should try to remember to let truth and justice prevail, but let love and compassion temper our words and actions.

    That's what I'm trying to do. But it ain't easy. In fact, it's a bitch trying to let go of righteous rage.

    But we can all try.