There has been a great deal of finger-pointing and tut-tutting in the blovosphere [if I may so label the world of opinion-offerers] about the refusal of some on the right to honor the memory of Nelson Mandeal. Dick Cheney remains unrepentant about his opposition to Mandela. A South Carolina sheriff refuses to lower the flag in honor of Mandela. Ted Cruz issues a bland message about Mandela and is slammed by his fervent supporters for saying anything nice about a communist and terrorist. And so forth.
I am actually rather pleased by this reaction on the right. Mandela was not Father Christmas, nor was he the Tooth Fairy. He was for his entire life a fighter against apartheid who took up arms and formed a lasting alliance with the South African Communist Party. He was not himself a communist -- that claim is just an expression of the ignorance of those who make it. The SACP and the ANC were allies. But he was everything that his detractors say he was -- that is why I honor him now.
There is a long-standing tendency in the White American community to pick one Black man or woman at any given time and celebrate him or her, while condemning all the others. When W. E. B. Du Bois was condemned as a dangerous radical, Booker T. Washington was embraced by America's racists as our "Good Negro." Eventually, Du Bois, safely dead, was resurrected and accepted by polite White society as a Good Negro. Martin Luther King was an enemy of the people, so far as J. Edgar Hoover and his ilk were concerned, condemned for inciting Black men and women to resistance, until he too died, whereupon America declared his birthday a public holiday. Even Malcolm X has been sanitized, purified, and sanctified in some circles, played in the movies by our most beloved Black actor.
I much prefer to remember them all as Enemies of the State, as revolutionaries who inspired fear and loathing in the entrenched powers. Dick Cheney is right to hate Mandela. Mandela fought against everything Cheney stands for. A strong progressive movement needs at all times to remember its enemies as well as its heroes.