December 12, 2013 by Ben Crystal
Nelson Mandela's memorial service was held at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg.
No matter what your opinion of Nelson Mandela, you can’t argue that he was super-duper famous. His funeral was the biggest-ticket event of year. Nearly 100 heads of state jostled with truly important people such as Bono and Oprah Winfrey for face time at the former South African president’s memorial service and celebrity gala. If a man’s measure can be taken by his funeral, then Mandela leaves the world with a gaping hole in its A-list photo ops that not even Jay-Z can fill.
President Barack Obama attended. It’s difficult to tell if he knew much about Mandela beyond some study packet provided by his minions; he spent much of his time snapping jocular “selfies” and generally having a grand old time. He did deliver a speech that touched on his usual themes of blaming wealthy people (other than he and his cronies, of course) for the plight of the poor and disenfranchised (other than the people of Detroit and Washington, D.C.). During his turn on the main stage, Obama also exhorted the assembled thusly: “Around the world today, men and women are still imprisoned for their political beliefs, and are still persecuted for what they look like, or how they worship, or who they love.” The irony of a President expressing such magnanimous concerns while illegally snooping on and/or using the Internal Revenue Service and Environmental Protection Agency to harass Americans who don’t share his politics was predictably lost on the cheering crowd and the fawning media.
Obama also made time to shake hands with murderous Cuban tyrant Raul Castro, another unfortunate moment which Obama’s cheering section — an increasingly hard bunch to find within American borders — thought worthy of praise instead of deserving of scorn. At least Senator Ted Cruz was there to represent the Americans who actually oppose tyranny; he pointedly walked out on Castro’s own oration.
Not all the proceedings were marked by the usual preening. The E! Network didn’t have some washed-up comedienne stationed out front of the venue, asking the attendees about their wardrobe choices. In at least two instances, the festivities took a decidedly less festive tone. Boos and catcalls met the introduction of current South African President Jacob Zuma, who appears to be almost as unpopular in South Africa as Obama has become in the United States. Another round of boos reportedly rained down on former U.S. President George W. Bush when his face popped up on the Jumbotron. Apparently, the boobirds are unaware that Bush’s Global Health Initiative has probably done more to combat illness and suffering in Africa than any other entity on the planet — all without so much as a decent write-up in People magazine.
The global celebrity set wasn’t alone in bathing in the adulation. The cheering section came alive for Palestinian martinet Mahmoud Abbas and Mandela’s ex-wife, Winnie. Abbas is an Islamofascist who has built his career on the corpses of Israelis and Palestinians alike. Winnie Mandela is a convicted criminal. She’s a monstrous coattails passenger whose entourage of thugs and killers (known to the unfortunate residents of Soweto as the “Mandela United Football Club”) was notable for its use of “necklacing,” a particularly brutal method of execution involving tires, gasoline and a total lack of even basic humanity on the part of the perpetrator.
Nelson Mandela’s own legacy is, and will remain, a topic of significant debate. For the purposes of this column, however, his legacy is entirely immaterial — mostly because he’s dead. Let’s suspend disbelief for a moment and presume that Mandela was an outright saint. I hardly think a hero who believed in freedom and justice for everyone — regardless of race — would be all that pleased to see his admirers cheering those who have done the least for his people, while jeering those who have done the most.