Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mandela Tops the SERP

I'm making my way, in fits and starts, through Kate Braestrup's Marriage and Other Acts of Charity. It's a thought-provoking essay on the religious dimensions of the marital state, penned by a minister who lost her husband (and father of her four children) to a tragic accident.

Last March, on a solo spring break ramble, I happened to see the book, and purchase it, at Prairie Lights in Iowa City.

Tonight, I decided, as a little experiment, to see what would come up on the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) for a Google search on the terms "marriage, sentencing, corrections."

The answer was Nelson Mandela, who remained married to his second wife, Winnie Madikezela, throughout his 27 years in prison. She endured an 18-month incarceration of her own and was there to meet him upon his release in 1990.

Winnie had been unfaithful to Nelson while he was imprisoned, however, and the couple had political differences over the proper means by which to resist apartheid. Her rhetoric had turned violent, including an endorsement of the practice of "necklacing" - burning people alive using tires and gasoline. She was also found criminally complicit in the kidnapping and murder of a 14-year-old boy by her bodyguards, for which she paid a fine after originally being sentenced to six years in prison.

Amid all this, the marriage of Nelson and Winnie Mandela - nominally intact for so long - finally ended. They separated in 1992, two years after Nelson Mandela's release from prison, and were divorced in the mid-1990s.

In recent months, Winnie Madikizela has become even more estranged from Nelson Mandela. In March, she gave a notorious interview in which she accused him of betraying the blacks of South Africa by not doing enough for the poor.

I doubt that Winnie Madikizela has read Kate Braestrup's book. But she should. If she did, she might find it in her heart to be more charitable to her former marriage partner.

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