Bono Honors The Man Who Could Not Cry

Humor, humility and the ability to compromise were the marks of the man

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As an activist I have pretty much been doing what Nelson Mandela tells me since I was a teenager. He has been a forceful presence in my life going back to 1979, when U2 made its first anti-apartheid effort. And he’s been a big part of the Irish consciousness even longer than that. Irish people related all too easily to the subjugation of ethnic majorities. From our point of view, the question as to how bloody South Africa would have to get on its long road to freedom was not abstract.

Over the years we became friends. I, like everyone else, was mesmerized by his deft maneuvering as leader of South Africa. His cabinet appointments of Trevor Manuel and Kadar Asmal were intuitive and ballsy. His partnership with Sowetan neighbor Desmond Tutu brought me untold joy. This double act—and before long a triple act that included Mandela’s wife, the bold and beautiful Graca Machel—took the success of the anti-apartheid fight in South Africa and widened the scope to include the battle against AIDS and the broader reach for dignity by the poorest peoples on the planet.

Mandela saw extreme poverty as a manifestation of the same struggle. “Millions of people … are trapped in the prison of poverty. It is time to set them free,” he said in 2005. “Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome … Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. You can be that great generation.” It certainly fell to Mandela to be great. His role in the movement against extreme poverty was critical. He worked for a deeper debt cancellation, for a doubling of international assistance across sub-Saharan Africa, for trade and private investment and transparency to fight corruption. Without his leadership, would the world over the past decade have increased the number of people on AIDS medication to 9.7 million and decreased child deaths by 2.7 million a year? Without Mandela, would Africa be experiencing its best decade of growth and poverty reduction? His indispensability can’t be proved with math and metrics, but I know what I believe …

Mandela would be remembered as a remarkable man just for what happened—and didn’t happen—in South Africa’s transition. But more than anyone, it was he who rebooted the idea of Africa from a continent in chaos to a much more romantic view, one in keeping with the majesty of the landscape and the nobility of even its poorer inhabitants. He was also a hardheaded realist, as his economic policy demonstrated. To him, principles and pragmatism were not foes; they went hand in hand. He was an idealist without naiveté, a compromiser without being compromised.

Surely the refrain “Africa rising” should be attributed to Madiba—the clan name everyone knows him by. He never doubted that his continent would triumph in the 21st century: “We are not just the peoples with the oldest history,” he told me. “We have the brightest future.” He knew Africa was rich with oil, gas, minerals, land and, above all, people. But he also knew that “because of our colonial past, Africans still don’t quite believe these precious things belong to them.” Laughing, he added, “They can find enough people north of the equator who agree with them.”

He had humor and humility in his bearing, and he was smarter and funnier than the parade of world leaders who flocked to see him. He would bait his guests: “What would a powerful man like you want with an old revolutionary like me?”

He could charm the birds off the trees—and cash right out of wallets. He told me once how Margaret Thatcher had personally donated £20,000 to his foundation. “How did you do that?” I gasped. The Iron Lady, who was famously frugal, kept a tight grip on her purse. “I asked,” he said with a laugh. “You’ll never get what you want if you don’t ask.” Then he lowered his voice conspiratorially and said her donation had nauseated some of his cohorts. “Didn’t she try to squash our movement?” they complained. His response: “Didn’t De Klerk crush our people like flies? And I’m having tea with him next week … He’ll be getting the bill.” (On other occasions, I heard Mandela praise the courage of F.W. de Klerk, the last President of apartheid South Africa, who had his own prison to escape: the prejudice of his upbringing. We should not forget his role in this historic drama).

Mandela lived a life without sanctimony. You try it; it’s not easy. His lack of piety helped him turn former foes into friends. In 1985, U2 and Bruce Springsteen responded to Steve Van Zandt’s call to lend our voices to an artists-against-apartheid recording titled “Sun City.” Sun City had been set up on the border of Botswana to bypass the cultural boycott of South Africa. Sol Kerzner’s casino there had become a pretty busy venue. Years later, when I chastised the music producer Quincy Jones about his friendship with Kerzner, Quincy replied, “Man, you know nothing about Mandela, do you? He wasn’t out of jail seven days before he called Sol Kerzner. Since then, Sol has been one of the largest contributors to the [African National Congress].” I felt like one of those Japanese soldiers who came out of the jungle in the 1950s still fighting World War II.

Laughter, not tears, was Madiba’s preferred way—-except on one occasion when I saw him almost choke up. It was on Robben Island, in the courtyard outside the cell in which he had spent 18 of his 27 years in prison. He was explaining why he’d decided to use his inmate’s number, 46664, to rally a response to the AIDS pandemic claiming so many African lives. One of his cellmates told me that the price Mandela paid for working in the limestone mine was not bitterness or even the blindness that can result from being around the bright white reflection day after day. Mandela could still see, but the dust damage to his tear ducts had left him unable to cry. For all this man’s farsightedness and vision, he could not produce tears in a moment of self-doubt or grief.

He had surgery in 1994 to put this right. Now, he could cry.

Today, we can.

428 comments
hybie
hybie

All the things I read on this site are a bunch of comments from people based on lies & assumptions from what they have heard from the media & other sources (people's opinions)...most are irrelevant & made up...what do you base your opinions on?  Do you think you are better than this man? Have you met him & talked with him? How have YOU changed the world you live in? Before criticizing anyone's efforts, look at WHAT YOU HAVE DONE OR CAN DO to do better! I know people will oppose me even for posting this, & I will probably get hate mail, but I strongly believe that anyone fighting for the rights of equality for all (black, white, male, female, rich, poor) deserves a lot of respect! I think Nelson Mandela changed the world for the better & deserves to be commended historically for radical change in thinking & behavior & humanity!

timefortruthnow
timefortruthnow

It's truly amazing the ignorant,  vile, and racist comments that come from cowards that hide behind their keyboards. As the world mourns and celebrates the life of a man that rose above the hate, bitterness, oppression to shine a light of love, reconciliationand forgiveness, my prayer is that one day you will do the same and stop being so  . . . small.

MarshaHansen
MarshaHansen

This moving and sensitive tribute to the great Nelson Mandela deserves to be read in classrooms throughout the world. Not only does Bono offer an intimate portrait of "Madiba", his testimony about how his own life of activism was inspired from the time he was a teenager is absolutely catalytic.  Nelson Mandela has departed the earth but his vision for global social justice lives on, as does his vision for a view of Africa that incorporates the dignity of all human beings.  Thank you, Bono, for this substantive and truly reflective review of the life, personality, and the contributions of a very great man.


train0fthoughts
train0fthoughts

So, in other words Mr. Bono, he was a master shakedown artist?


And to think that I was close to nearly respecting you.

ZanderSky
ZanderSky

One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. The early American founders were called Terrorist, the state of Israel will label you a terrorist at the drop of a hat if you disagree with them. Israel was a staunch supporter of apartheid South Africa. When you are in your own country and your oppressor keeps his boots on your neck you are obligated to use whatever means you can to stop the abuse. Mandela wanted to use the same brutal force against the Boers that they used against his people but he later changed his mind and rightly so. He was not by any means perfect but he was perfectly suited for his times, analytical, logical and patient. He looked to the future not the past knowing that the generations to come will have to continue his goal of reconciliation. He was a great man, but no, he wasn't perfect. The Middle East should look to his example because they are sorely in need of a man like Mandela and King.

JimBunion
JimBunion

Any time the Main Stream media hero worships, take note.  Mandela's ex-wife Winnie, also a longtime ANC activist, prefers a ... 68,000 whites have been brutally tortured and murdered by blacks in South and Nelson was the same.

ttunezz
ttunezz

You know that when you have socialist morons like Maya Angelou, Hillary Clinton and Bono crying rivers of tears at your passing that you must have been one of Carl Marx's special children.  Nelson Mandela was worse than that.  He was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of South African children by delivering and planting ANC bombs in South African school buses and waiting around to insure the bombs went off.  "Father of a Nation" my a$$.  He was just another Tryvon from a different place and time.  Mr Mandela I hope that there no rest for you at the Lake of Fire and you have Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot keep you company you murdering monster.

JimBunion
JimBunion

I guess Bono is a Commie too then.  Well, I knew that.already.  What's his real name Myron Begglestein?.

ChiliBoots
ChiliBoots

Also, Communism, and his Wife's "necklacing" of their Opponents. You know, where the victims are bound, and old tires around their necks are lit on fire, until they burn to death, screaming. A really, really cute Pair. And thanks to "Bono" for his grotesquely uninformed, and arrogant, Appraisal. What a 'Maroon', this 'Designated Lennon' continues to be! If only he could shut his ugly, great gob, even just  occasionally.


mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

And the right wing bigots come out in a swarm. Cowards all of you. The sum of you combined does not have the courage or dignity of what this brave man had, nor will you accomplish what he accomplished.

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

It's a constant theme of conservatism to falsely take credit for the progressive causes of yesteryear while attempting to destroy contemporary ones. It bears repeating: in 1776, a conservative was a Tory. In 1860, a centrist advocated more compromises and a conservative was a Confederate or Confederate sympathizer. In 1880, a conservative was a friend of the robber barons. In 1935, conservatives advocated that the elderly die in the streets rather than receive Social Security. In 1955, a conservative was a McCarthyite red-baiter. In 1965, a conservative was a Beatles-hating, MLK-hating opponent of Medicare, civil rights and birth control. In 1986 conservatives were calling Mandela a terrorist while clandestinely selling arms to Iran to funding fascist Central American death squads. In 1996 conservatives were led by Newt Gingrich and impeached Bill Clinton over sex acts. In 2006 they were committing war crimes in Iraq while trying to private Social Security and subvert the justice department.

It's not any different in 2013. The issues change, but the heart and soul of conservatism remains the same.

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

Lot of white hoods getting pulled out, huh?

sharialawfan
sharialawfan

May he writhe in Necklace-Hell forever.  You fairy.

JimBunion
JimBunion

@jbgo You are brainwashed, Mandela was a Commie, his wife was part of a group that tortured blacks. You're a tard.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@JimBunion Any time Fox news Hero worships take note. Reagan was the biggest war criminal of the last 50 years.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

Will he have Reagan and Bush to keep him company as well seeing as they killed hundreds of thousands of innocents?

JimBunion
JimBunion

@ttunezz And the mainstream media is lock step with this commie socialist pig, they promote it, because that is what they want.

ttunezz
ttunezz

You know that when you have socialist morons like Maya Angelou, Hillary Clinton and Bono crying rivers of tears at your passing that you must have been one of Carl Marx's special children.  Nelson Mandela was worse than that.  He was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of South African children by delivering and planting ANC bombs in South African school buses and waiting around to insure the bombs went off.  "Father of a Nation" my a$$.  He was just another Tryvon from a different place and time.  I hope that there no rest for you at the Lake of Fire and you have Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot keep you company you murdering monster.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

And yet I'm sure you worship at the altar of Reagan who funded the death and torture of thousands in Central America and supplied targeting coordinates to Iraq to help them use chemical weapons on Iranian troops and civilians.

JimBunion
JimBunion

@mantisdragon91 Hitler had accomplished a lot also.  So what. Mandela was a Commie and his wife tortured blacks.  FU dude, read your history.

tribegal2014
tribegal2014

@mantisdragon91 Your finger-pointing libtardian hysteria aside, yes, Mandela was a truly exceptional man that helped changed Africa.     Unfortunately, Africa is changing again.    In a few decades, the entire continent will be ruled by 7th century "bigots."    REAL BIGOTS.   The kind that cut off the limbs or stone to death people they don't like.  And for all Mandela accomplished, his photo and life will be considered idol worship by muslim zombies, his memory destroyed and forgotten.

ChiliBoots
ChiliBoots

And you are willfully, and woefully, ignorant of the facts, Junior.

nevadasmith68
nevadasmith68

@mantisdragon91    Isn't it easy for a low-life like you to call others names such as coward-A cyber coward who would never call a man a coward to his face.

ChiliBoots
ChiliBoots

Clinton was not Impeached for "sex acts". He was Impeached for lying about them. Who cares what a "conservative" is? 

Labeling people is idiotic, and presumptuous. Boehner is just as big a Criminal as is Reid. Your designations are irrelevant.

The Truth is The Truth, wherever it leads. We have a One-Party System, presently in America.

ttunezz
ttunezz

DonQuixotic, Liberalism is a mental disorder.  Taken your meds lately?

Stan192837
Stan192837

@DonQuixotic Yes, it's really cool and progressive to kill babies and call it choice! The choice was made in deciding to make the baby. But let's keep those who murder alive in prison and let them out to do it all over again. Now THAT'S progress.

RoccoRolo
RoccoRolo

Yeah, gotta watch out for those "white hoods" when you walk through the 'hood.


I think you're lost in the forties, man.

Essextex
Essextex

Idiotic comment
 by JimBunion


RogerDowd
RogerDowd

In the early 20th century a minority took away all political rights from the overwhelming indigenous majority of black Africans. Less than 10% of the land was allocated to 80% of the population. Blacks were allowed on the other 90% of the land only if they worked for whites at subsistence wages in appalling conditions that no white people would work under. Most people would call that statutory slavery. It was. Maybe you know of a political organization in South Africa in that period, spanning five or six generations, that advocated a peaceful restoration of basic native civil rights and would have been effective. I don't. Does that mean I am advocating Communism? No. I am only saying that desperate people are driven to desperate acts. You may disagree and that is okay. I just think that the American "experiment" in government was initiated by grievances that were a lot less odious than Apartheid. A lot of innocent people were killed in the American Revolution.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

And you are a perfect example of why the world thinks Americans are crude bigots.

ChiliBoots
ChiliBoots

"mantisdragon91";

Reagan was an Idiot. Mandela was a Criminal. There was no real President since the murder of Kennedy. Hitler doesn't justify Pol Pot; nor Stalin, Obama. You stand on sand, Professor. You're "sure"? That's Cute. And wrong.

And stunningly stupid.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

And Reagan was responsible for 100,000 dead in Guatemala. So your point is what exactly? Guess the conservative idol is identical to Hitler.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

Actually it won't. See Africa is getting more prosperous and prosperous countries don't tend to embrace religious extremism, with the US being a glaring exception.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

Actually as a former veteran of the 3rd ACR I would happily look you in the eye and call you exactly what you are.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

Actually Conservatism is. If it wasn't for Liberals we'd still be a British Colony.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

Its even cooler to invade countries based on lies killing hundreds of thousands.

ChiliBoots
ChiliBoots

Well, Junior, do your own work, and move on. Your arrogant ignorance is tiresome. Additionally, nobody cares about your stint in the Service, except you. You remain a lazy Moron-on-a-couch. Wave your little flag at someone else. Thanks.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

Why Hundreds of Thousands are more accurate when one counts Iraq, Grenada, Panama and our shadow wars in Nicaragua and El Salvador. You know the ones where the great conservative idol Reagan financed and trained death squads that killed women, children and priests, making sure to torture them first.

DonnalynPolles
DonnalynPolles

@RoccoRolo I am guessing you havent spend any time in the South.  Racism is alive and well down there.  And yes, the KKK does still exist.  But you can just don your white hood and go party with them whenever you like.
People like you need to know some facts before opening your mouth.

ChiliBoots
ChiliBoots

No, I think the argument, here, is that you are a Complete Idiot.

nevadasmith68
nevadasmith68

@sofie6   This idiot (quixwhatever) couldn't knock out a fart. Just another oddball spreading his ignorance of history.

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@sofie6

You mean it sounds like I'm black?  You don't have to beat around the bush, share your hatred for everyone to see.

sofie6
sofie6

sounds like you are an active regular member of the Knockout thugs

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@sofie6

Lol, "the true news".

Fox?  Brietbart?  Drudge?

"wipe the brown smudges around your mouth -it will not get you anywhere"

^Clearly not a racist.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

And the GOP brain trust speaks. Gee I wonder why people think you are racists?

sofie6
sofie6

wipe the brown smudges around your mouth -it will not get you anywhere...........

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@sofie6

Accusing someone of racism makes you a racist?

So, are you a racist?

sofie6
sofie6

No, because she accused a sales person in Sweden of racism ! 

Keep up with the true news maybe you wouldn't make an A$$ out of yourself..

Empowering BLACK Americans.....we already have one who assumed /usurped unlimited powers ...look where it got our country?

Everything he touches turns to turds....

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@sofie6

Oprah is a racist?  Why, because she promotes empowerment of African-Americans?

sofie6
sofie6

Even a multi-billionare Oprah is a FLAMING racist...though the reference to slavery didn't prevent her from becoming filthy rich and still accuse everyone of racism.....actually it Never happened prior to the POST RACIAL president winning  the election....

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@sofie6

Ha, Robert Byrd? It's adorable whenever Conservatives try to pretend like they've ever been on the right side of history. Is your argument really that the KKK is a progressive group?


sofie6
sofie6

Robert Byrd a proud member of democratic party never got offended by KKK as he was a leading member there and still qualified to be a democrat...maybe it was a prerequisite    ....

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@sofie6

I'm not defending men like Sharpton and Jackson, I don't even like them.  I just think it's telling about someone's character (or motives?) when they immediately in knee-jerk response action defend white racism with "no black people are the real racists".

"And that is how millions of lazy people in our country "making a living' - by using welfare and crime!"

...or blow dog whistles like this.

sofie6
sofie6

Sure it exists- that is how Sharpton , Jackson made millions!!!!

And that is how millions of lazy people in our country "making a living' - by using welfare and crime!

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@RoccoRolo @DonQuixotic

Get a load of this guy.

Certainly not telling at all that you get offended about someone mentioning the KKK and immediately shift the discussion to "the hood".

RoccoRolo
RoccoRolo

@DonQuixotic -- *WHIFF*


Steeeeee-rike three!

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@RoccoRolo

Yes, because racism doesn't exist, certainly not among these comments.  

You're either hopelessly naive or deliberately obtuse.  Maybe a bit of both? Maybe something else.

RoccoRolo
RoccoRolo

No, I was pointing out what a swing-and-a-miss, braindead post yours was. You whiffed, bub.

RoccoRolo
RoccoRolo

Keep tilting at those windmills. Maybe you can fight for desegregated drlnking fountains. Your screen-name suits you.