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Nature’s Curiosity Cabinet

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Just For Fun

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Places I've been...

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Durbar Square, Kathmandu, 1975, long before the earthquake.

Durbar Square, Kathmandu, 1975, long before the earthquake.

Epilogue - The Last Good Battle

The year was 1995, and I was in the Republic of South Africa as the country celebrated the first anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s presidency following his release from prison in 1990. I was with representatives from five other African countries, attending a seminar I had organized on agricultural research. For many of the African representatives, it was the first time they dared enter South Africa, afraid to do so earlier because of apartheid. As we celebrated that day, I remember it to be a solemn yet joyous moment.

It was not so long after that Nelson Mandela stepped down from the Presidency to honor something he firmly believed in; the two-term limit agreed upon for post-apartheid presidents. The last good battle ended in 1999 as Thabo Mbeki assumed the presidency. It marked the end of a fight done alone from a pitiless cell and with the solidarity of those crying for his freedom. It was a battle won against one of the most brutal systems of segregation ever known. It was won with humility, followed by an equality extended to every citizen of South Africa. Even though that reach has yet to economically lift all black South Africans, it exists where no such thing stood before.

As we look upon our presidential candidates for this year’s election in the USA, we can easily see that the last good battle has swept by us, our country paralyzed and broken, defaulting on promises to nearly all of its citizens. From such chaos has come the opportunists, seeking to lead over a time of bitterness, acrimony and fear, driving voters to a lesser choice among equals.  

Why has the good fight avoided America? Where is the appeal to equality in this country? Where is religious tolerance, instead of an evangelical army? Where is legislative responsibility when the number of laws agreed upon is a measure of progress rather than the amount of work abandoned or avoided? Where is America the engaged, rather than America the walled fortress?

Where is the civility and respect owed to the families of those gunned down, random innocents, in their own homes, jobs, schools, clinics, and neighborhoods? Where is that voice we never hear from when the tragic occurs, that of the gun vendors and attack-gun collectors, from those carrying assault rifles, and concealed weapons, passed down within the family to children and students? Where is their voice when the unimaginable happens? Those so concerned with the right to bear arms that they go suddenly deaf, dumb and blind with the falling of innocents.

Where is this country’s last good battle? Surely not among those so privileged that laws twist around their fingers, allowing them to bankrupt others while standing tall themselves, immune from the very laws they seek to command. Surely not among those who say that one religion should triumph over the plurality of religion our ancestors fought to secure. Nor among those who preach of fear merely to enslave rather than protect us.

No, we will not find the good battle here, we find no person of humility, service, and courage. Instead, the opportunists come and lagging behind them, a poisoned environment, in what still stands as an island of democracy, but no longer a beacon among nations.