Before I begin, I wish to say that as a South African I have the utmost respect for Nelson Mandela and wish him a happy 95th birthday today. He is an inspirational man who played an important role in leading South Africa’s transition from racist dictatorship to multiracial democracy and rehabilitated our image in front of the world. He respected the rule of law, helped build our institutions of democracy and even had the decency to retire voluntarily (something few African leaders do).
That said, his record was not perfect. He ignored violent crime, he ignored AIDS (the latter of which he admitted and did much to raise awareness of in his retirement) and his choice of cabinet appointees (some of whom are still in government) ranged from average to downright poor.
While he deserves congratulations, I am uncomfortable with Mandela day; firstly, while he deserves our congratulations and prayers, the level of fawning and adulation he receives is excessive and embarrassing and smacks of idolatry to me (I’m not even sure Mandela would feel comfortable with that). This is particularly so when it comes from leftist politicians and activists in the USA (and I apologize to any Americans reading this, no offence intended), most of whom can’t even find South Africa on a map.
Why not just wish him “happy birthday” and get on with our lives? After all, we don’t have a Pope John Paul II day, Mother Theresa Day or a Dalai Lama day.