Thursday, December 05, 2013

My nice grandmother was a Republican and lived in northern Michigan for all but one year of her life. There were few non-white people there during her life span, from 1910 to 1998. Even today, it is about 95 percent white.

Grandma subscribed to US News and World Report, which I called Screwed Up Views and World Distort. She also read Reader's Digest and the local newspaper. It wasn't a surprise that her views on many things were crappy. She often blathered on about the Trilateral Commission, which to this day I have no clue what that was all about. She had a page torn out of Reader's Digest that showed countries in Africa that were coming under the influence of Russia. Again, I did not really see how this concerned her.

In the 1980s, there was a growing movement to get rid of apartheid in South Africa and free Nelson Mandela. I attended student protests at the University of Michigan- we were trying to get the Regents to stop investing money in companies that did business in South Africa. And of course the Republican-dominated regents refused to do so. They also refused to give Mandela an honorary degree because he was unable to attend the graduation ceremony. He was in prison at the time. The student protests eventually caused the way honorary degrees were handed out and Mandela would receive one in 1987 while still in prison.

Something came on the news about protests to free Nelson Mandela and Grandma said, "He's a Communist!" My response was, "Have you ever met a Communist?" She replied, "No." And I was bratty and told her, "Well if you don't know what you are talking about you should just shut up."

Probably not the nicest thing to say, but I in college years I had realized that the world view promoted in northern Michigan was stunted, fearful, racist.

Nelson Mandela died today. I'm glad he was able to live the last 25 years of his life in freedom. He was a true hero in a world that still needs heroes.

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