Now when you conjure up the 80’s people dress up in day glo clothing, channel Madonna, and generally have fun. But for those of us coming of age in that decade it was anything but bright. We sometime forget just how dark a time the 80’s were. Nuclear proliferation was at it’s height, the Cold War was at its frostiest, war between the super powers was imminent. These were dark times. One of the signs that things were getting worse than better in the world was the South African Government immovable stand on Apartheid. I studied the systems of Apartheid in grade 11 history, knew the deep entrenched divisions amongst it’s people and watched as the current government refused to bend in the face of world sanctions and increasing calls for its abolishment.
Through out all this time, there was the story of this one man, Nelson Mandela ,who stood for the resistance. Imprisoned for 21 years, no one had even SEEN the guys for years. In this age of selfles and constant cameras, it’s hard to imagine that. Here was this man who stood as a beacon of hope for people who wanted change, and all we had were some B&W photos and a grainy news clips of him being interviewed back in the 60’s. Thats it! There were more pics of Garbo or J. D Salinger at that time! Mandela as leader was more myth that reality.
So when Mandela emerged from prison in February 1990, and Apartheid was gone mere months after the fall of the Iron Curtain, it seem miraculous. Suddenly two things I grew up to believe were unmovable, were gone. The 90’s seemed like a decade with new hope. For Mandela, if he did nothing else, he’d be remembered for simply staying the course, that would be enough. But his second act as a world leader is awe inspiring. To bring so much grace in his role as world leader, after all he had been through, that’s what’s inspiring to me.