Where is the next Nelson Mandela?

  • 9 December 2013
A photographic portrait of Nelson Mandela taken in Norway on June 11, 2005.

Is the next Nelson Mandela rotting in jail? Or is he a victim of liberal reverse racism?

After the initial flood of pre-packaged tributes, reflections and paeans to the departed South African leader, some commentators are asking where the next transformational world figure will come from - and why.

The Philadelphia Daily News' Will Bunch reflects on Mr Nelson's passing. This is how he concludes:

The next Nelson Mandela of the world is rotting in a jail cell tonight, just like Mandela nearly withered for 27 years on Robben Island. Or he is on someone's terrorist watch list, or she is segregated and searched every time she travels through an international airport. Somewhere, government spies are reading the emails of the next Nelson Mandela. They are tracking his cell phone and listening to his calls, or monitoring her meetings with their undercover cops.

Many of the other people who today are uttering bland platitudes about the dead Mandela will go back tomorrow to heaping scorns on the living ones. They are the shameless radio hosts and TV pundits and their army of dittoheads who see an advocate for justice and call him a "Communist", who look at someone who wants to liberate her people and brand her a "terrorist", who find someone willing to live in a tent city to call attention to inequality and call them a urine soaked rapist, who lash out at someone who dares to believe in peace as "naive", or a "dirty (bleep)ing hippie".

The Nelson Mandela of the 21st century is right here, right now. We just can't see it. We're too busy spitting on him and calling him a terrorist.

Meanwhile, the editors of Investor's Business Daily ask why there have not been more Nelson Mandelas in Africa:

Where were the candlelight vigils, the impassioned divestment movements, the sweeping moral denunciations as Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe and his political allies intimidated, slaughtered and stole the property of others while systematically ruining what was once the wealthiest economy in all of Africa?

Why was there no clamor for Chad, whose ruler Hissene Habre, at apartheid's peak, murdered foes, tortured innocent citizens, carried out mass arrests and engaged in ethnic and tribal cleansing?

Or, more recently, why the near silence over the Central African Republic, where, for nearly three decades, its rulers and rebels have engaged in mass murder, destruction of entire villages, looting and torture?

How about the massacre of black Christians today in Darfur?

It leads us to wonder: Do only black African victims of white African perpetrators matter? Is the suffering of blacks at the hands of other blacks meaningless? Is this the weirdly racist world view of many progressives: black suffering is valid only if it comes at the hands of bad white people?

Let us all mourn this great man, while also hoping that the other nations of Africa will one day find their own Mandelas - and Americans and Europeans will pay a bit more attention to the suffering in the rest of Africa.

The majority of Nelson Mandela commentary continues to be warm tributes to the man and his life - but, like any public topic these days, politics is creeping into the discussion.

There was the pushback against conservatives who praised Mr Mandela in the hours following his death. A number of columnists have condemned Mr Mandela as a radical communist. On the left, he has been criticised for not being socialist enough.

So, where is the next Nelson Mandela? The answer depends on your politics.