INSIDE every one of us is the spark that must live free.So we can identify with the release yesterday of Nelson Mandela after 27 years behind South African bars for no more than exercising political freedom.
A dark recess inside us every one is also a cosmic black hole for the freedom of others. We can be intolerant of human rights. And it would be a measure of that intolerance if we degrade the quest for freedom by the 28 millions in the black majority of South Africa.
NELSON MANDELA is a symbol.
He represents specific freedom for South Africans. He also represents that spark of freedom each of us feels.
When he emerged from jail, Mandela praised South African President F.W. de Klerk for providing his release. He called for peace - something which is questionable as the reactionary white resistance to change sets in.
But Mandela did not renounce his African National Congress struggle nor call on it to fold.
We must not expect that either, although the dark spot in us wants to hold that a settled South Africa might be better than freedom for its people militantly arrived at.
A thousand political prisoners remain in South African jails. Stringent apartheid laws are still on the books. Simple political rights and human rights are withheld from the people of Mandela.
And in that sense Mandela is not really free. Nor or we.
The man is out but the symbol stays in prison with the hopes of the people.
The spark of freedom in us, meanwhile, is attracted to the freedom fires in the hearts of oppressed South Africans.
THE GOVERNMENT of the United States has an important role to play in how it receives Mandela, how it receives de Klerk, whether it lifts economic sanctions and fully normalizes our relationship.
We must be careful that the black hole in us does not swallow the sparks of freedom. Because if we identify with oppression, an American spark will dim and not just the one symbolized by Nelson Mandela.