Former South African President Nelson Mandela has died today. As expected, there is an outpouring of grief for the 20th century icon and an endless parade of commendation for the man. President Obama said this afternoon that Mandela was one of the most "profoundly good human beings."
Now, of course Mandela was a profoundly important individual on the world's political landscape. And to the point that he helped end apartheid, the official policy of racial separation and discrimination in South Africa, Mandela will always be associated with virtue and goodness to some degree.
But let's not gloss over the whole story in the rush to make him a saint.
First of all, I'm not convinced his own family would call him "profoundly good." He was a serial adulterer and married three times. Second, he was a communist. He was tried and found guilty for treason because of his communist connections, which at the time, and afterward, he strongly denied. But it has since been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that Mandela and his organizations were trained, supported by, and loyal to Communist leaders in Moscow and elsewhere. Third, he was a terrorist leader. The US State Department recognized his organizations as terror groups which murdered/executed people for political reasons. One of the cruelest murders imaginable, "necklacing," where a victim is beaten into submission, tortured, then has a burning tire placed around their neck or body which cooks them alive, began with Mandela's ANC and was openly endorsed by Mandela's second wife, then head of the ANC while Mandela was in prison.
Is Mandela as bad as Adolf Hitler? Of course not. In fact, Mandela might be praised for some parts of his life. But many other people have been long-suffering political prisoners for good causes without the checkered personal morality of Nelson Mandela.
I'm just saying that someone so closely tied to a lifetime of adultery, communist revolution, murder, and violence shouldn't receive such a one-sided eulogy.