There's a very good piece in the federalist discussing the historical account of Nelson Mandela's struggle and how the west helped or didn't help him in his oh-so-obvious struggle against racism. The left conclusion is of course, Reagan and Thatcher were racists in not helping Mandela.
There is nothing more typically leftist than taking facts and drawing a simple minded conclusion that easily paints people into roles of "good" and "evil" or more specifically, "heroes" and "villains." This is from people who say we aren't nuanced enough. Usually they find that conservatives aren't nuanced when liberals are trying to defend the obviously evil.
For instance, the 9/11 terrorists are a perfect example of obvious evil. There is no real excuse or justification for their actions, so the left will bend over backwards to try to find one. They do this for mass murderers constantly if they are of minority descent. Hitler doesn't get a pass, but Che does. This is because any racial minority in the United States (we won't even talk about how provincial their thinking is on these matters, even as they turn their nose up at us hicks) is oppressed in their minds and therefore oppressed everywhere, even in places like Cuba where there are few whites and even fewer Americans.
But when it's the other way around, when conservatives do something they don't like, it's always racism. But even beyond that, when things don't seem to go the way they have built up in their minds -they have prejudged you might say- then it MUST be racism.
Take Leo Terrell on Hannity the other day. His logic goes something like this: Idaho has a small black population. Therefore Idaho is racist. There is no other explanation. His demeanor and attitude is so hateful that the irony is lost on him. Not on Hannity and his guest, Crystal Wright. (BTW, you MUST follow her twitter feed.)
So that takes us back to Mandela. To employ Leo's logic: Reagan and Thatcher didn't do anything to free Mandela, therefore Reagan and Thatcher were racists. There is no other explanation. Except there is:
In this telling, Reagan and Thatcher are portrayed as having no good or defensible reason for their actions. Instead, the narrative holds that external pressure on South Africa by liberal entertainers and politicians – including economic sanctions imposed over President Reagan’s veto in 1986 – freed Mandela, who went on to prove his conservative critics wrong and earn the admiration of the world.
Not every element of this narrative is factually wrong, but it is missing so much critical context as to be grossly misleading. Reagan was wrong about Mandela but right about the world, and in judging Reagan, that was what really mattered; Mandela was wrong about the world but right about South Africa, and in judging Mandela, that was what really mattered.
To understand Mandela’s flaws, why he was greeted with skepticism on the Right, and why he deserves to be lionized for rising above that skepticism, you must first consider both the global context of the Cold War and its regional impact on Southern Africa. And contrary to the liberal narrative, it was the end of the Cold War and the end of the regional agony of southwest Africa that made Mandela’s release and the end of apartheid possible.There is always more to it than the liberal narrative. To say Mandela simply rose above racism actually diminishes the impact and culture of what was happening in the world at the time. These people are actually people, not whites and blacks engaged in a mythic struggle of race, a story to be told and retold like Star Wars. The left by not getting into the nuances of what was going on actually diminishes Mandela and the South African people as human beings in their attempts to elevate him because they only elevate him because of skin color.
There were people and countries making choices and creating consequences that may or may not have had anything to do with skin color. The truth is the story of South Africa and much of Africa at large is FAR more interesting and has far more depth than just "whites vs. blacks." Even if you put blacks on the side of the angels because of their skin color, you still diminish them as human beings.
Take Mugabe for example:
Inland from Mozambique, and also bordering South Africa, lay Rhodesia, independent from Britain since 1965 and ruled by Ian Smith’s white-minority government. Rhodesia had declared its independence unilaterally, which was resisted by Great Britain (Rhodesia was never diplomatically recognized by South Africa, although its government ended up being effectively propped up by South Africa). Its white ruling regime faced a two-headed insurgency from the black majority population: the rural, Chinese-backed Maoist group ZANU, headed at the time by Robert Mugabe and Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole, and Joshua Nkomo’s Soviet-backed ZAPU. In early 1978, under international pressure from – among others – the U.S. and South Africa, Smith agreed to a power-sharing agreement with moderate black Bishop Abel Muzorewa, an accord designed to ease Rhodesia into participation and ultimately majority control by the black majority, while explicitly preserving a political power base for the white minority (including guaranteed legislative seats) and empowering the moderate factions within the black majority. Unfortunately for Zimbabwe’s people, Mugabe and Nkomo rejected the agreement and refused to make peace, and Muzorewa wasn’t a strong enough leader to bring them to heel. By February 1980, the accord had been torn up and Mugabe elected President, where he remains today, with increasingly tragic consequences.So where we have blacks tossing off the white oppressors, we have Mugabe who is a brutal tyrant and blood still flows today. If we continue to frame all of these political, social, and economic problems only in terms of skin color and racism, we may miss a bigger picture and cause a lot of far reaching consequences. Just imagine:
To put this in American terms, imagine that you were trying to rally support against Jim Crow in Florida, but the end of segregation in the rest of the region had resulted in oppression of whites and attempted genocide in South Carolina, a Marxist regime in Georgia, a civil war in Mississippi stoked by an army from Louisiana, and Alabama invading the panhandle arm-in-arm with an expeditionary force of Cuban Communists.Vengeance is not justice. Because one race was wrong and used skin color to subjugate another race, doesn't make it right to turn it the other way and end up with the same issues, only to have the teams reversed.
So keeping all this in mind and remembering the horrors that communism produced in the Soviet Union, China, Vietnam, and Cuba, it makes sense that Reagan wouldn't be necessarily jumping on board to free a communist from prison in South Africa because he didn't want another Mugabe. Now it is important to note that Reagan and Thatcher were wrong about Mandela but the point is that their judgement had nothing to do with the color of his skin.
In Reagan’s search for allies against Communist domination of southern Africa, it’s easy to see why Nelson Mandela would not have seemed a promising prospect. Because, for all his later merits, Mandela gave every impression of being cut from the same ideological and political cloth as Mugabe and the region’s other Communists and fellow-travelers.
The true extent to which Mandela was a believing and active Communist in the early 1960s, or during his imprisonment, remains a matter of some debate to this day. After his death, the modern South African Communist Party claimed “Comrade Mandela” as having once been an active leader of the Party, but then its self-serving motives in wanting as large a piece of his legacy as it could grasp are fairly obvious.I have noticed conservatives have knee-jerked a bit about Mandela with the "well he was a communist" criticism. This is true but what is also true is how he made South Africa into a much better place than what it was before. Political leanings have a tendency to cloud our critical thinking. The left will always think this way, it's important that we don't.