December 11, 2013
The overwhelming majority of proceedings and speakers at the memorial service on Tuesday in South Africa for Nelson Mandela was appropriate, respectful, solemn and heartfelt. The event was watched by millions of people around the world.
And then there were the disgraceful, distasteful parts.
One part included the sign language interpreter, who has been accused of making up signs during the event and simply not fulfilling the obligation of that role.
These issues have come to the forefront since and in our day of 24/7 news coverage, we can’t seem to let it go. Nor should we.
The one was absolutely preventable. The integrity and ability of the man assigned the role of sign language interpreter for the memorial service has been questioned on multiple occasions in the past, according to published reports. It seems likely to think that someone on the planning team could have raised a hand and said, “we should get someone else.” Apparently that did not happen, and the world was there to witness the mistakes.
The second is our own President Barack Obama who, in hopefully what was only a moment of indiscretion, thought that during the service would be a great time to have a “selfie” photo taken of him alongside Danish Prime Minster Helle Thorning Schmidt and British Prime Minister David Cameron.
It’s not known whose phone it was. Photos of an apparently disapproving First Lady Michelle Obama have been, according to published reports, misconstrued.
But that hardly matters. What we have is a series of photos that have gone viral, depicting our commander-in-chief laughing and having a great time at a memorial for one of the world’s most renowned anti-apartheid leaders.
Mandela was human, but a man who spent 27 years in prison, who fought and overcame oppression to become his country’s first black president and who taught the world a lesson about forgiveness deserves more respect than what our presidnet displayed.
Mandela would be quick to forgive, of course, in what, in the scheme of things, might be considered a minor transgression. Thanks to the Internet, though, you can bet it won’t soon be forgotten.