I suppose one could say: this is how much Mandela changed the world. He changed it so much that today's concerned, intelligent, American teenagers have never had to hear the word apartheid battered around on the evening news. On the other hand, I was appalled. In my son's lifetime, Mandela has only been a respected public figure. But in my lifetime he underwent an unthinkable transformation: from state-reviled prisoner to president of that very same nation. It's not that my son is ignorant of Mandela's particular brand of greatness. He just didn't hear that racist label splashed day after day among Iran Contra embarrassments and Michael Jackson hits. Of course he didn't. But even though I know this, time never stops being a surprise.
Friday, December 6, 2013
On his Facebook page, my 16-year-old wrote, "R.I.P Nelson Mandela. You were one of the greatest civil rights activists the world has ever seen." This, I thought, was a fine thing for an American teenager to recognize. Yet in the kitchen, when I continued the conversation with him and happened to use the word apartheid, he looked at me, puzzled, and asked, "What is that?"