One Last Thought About Nelson Mandela

As parents, we transmit the qualities—and myths—of our leaders through the stories we tell our children. Think George Washington and his cherry tree, Abraham Lincoln and his Gettysburg Address, Martin Luther King and his “I Have A Dream” speech, delivered at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial.

Nelson Mandela’s Humanity

Of all the rightly deserved accolades heaped on Nelson Mandela with his passing, perhaps the most important have to do with his humanity, his ubuntu, as it is called in Zulu. On its own it was rather remarkable; when compared with current leaders everywhere who routinely put political expediency and professional longevity ahead of the greater good, Mandela’s humanity was nothing short of stunning.

Charles Taylor, Belatedly

For reasons personal and professional, I’ve been away from the blog for a while now, during which several important events occurred. I’ll try to address them in upcoming posts.

The first, and perhaps most important, was Charles Taylor’s sentencing in the Hague to fifty years in prison for his role in atrocities committed in Sierra Leone during its civil war in the 1990s.

The Arab Gulf’s Split Personality

The king of Saudi Arabia made a momentous proclamation not long ago: women will be granted, for the first time, the right to vote and run in future municipal elections. This, in a country that practices a strict separation of the sexes, prohibits women from driving, requires them to have a male chaperon for most public excursions.

The War Against Journalists

It has been a sad week for foreign correspondence, what with the deaths of Anthony Shadid and Marie Colvin.  Shadid, 43, died last Thursday from an apparent asthma attack while on assignment in Syria for the New York Times. Of Lebanese-American descent, Shadid spent most of his career covering the Middle East for the Associated Press, Boston Globe, Washington Post and the Times.

Knowing When To Go

Reading the reams of articles about the child sex-abuse scandal at Penn State, I’m reminded of various dictators around the world I’ve covered/known. I’m thinking of those who started out as saviours in their respective countries and did much good–only to succumb to the seduction of power and their own vanity, clinging to their offices in ways that undid their legacies.

Africa, Finally

In the face of the much-deserved media coverage of the “Arab Spring” uprisings, it was gratifying to see the Nobel Peace Prize committee acknowledge a sadly under-reported, but no less bloody nor intractable, arena of conflict: Africa. The Nobel committee awarded the prize earlier this month to Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee and to Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first elected female head-of-state. They shared the award with Tawakul Karman of Yemen, a pro-democracy campaigner.

A Cautionary Tale

The New York Times ran a chilling story last Sunday about about a young Argentinian woman who was, unbeknown to her, raised by the military officer who tortured and killed her parents. It is yet another heart-breaking piece of what was known as Argentina’s “dirty war”: the kidnapping (or “disappearing”)  and murder of thousands of suspected leftist terrorists, mostly Argentine citizens, by the military dictatorship that ruled the country from 1976 until 1983.

Selling Your Diplomatic Soul

Amid the myriad stories about the Arab spring–which has segued into summer and fall– the Washington Post ran a piece last month about a former high-ranking State Department official who reportedly met with aides to Moammar Gaddafi at the height of the Libyan uprising to advise them on how to keep their boss in power.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the Sordid Details

The sordid details of the alleged sexual attack by Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the head of the International Monetary Fund, are indeed shocking. Also distressing–obviously in a different context–is the fact that he was staying in a $3000-a-night hotel suite in New York, the site of the alleged crime.