leaves hundreds of millions of us feeling what you would expect: the global loss of a true soldier and seeker, a man who would not let overwhelming institutional opposition stop him or the movement he represented, a man who spent 27 years -- 27 years! -- in prison, committed to the belief that the justice of unstoppable resistance would ultimately release him and, more importantly, would open the way for a better society.
But Mandela's death also leaves us, here in the United States, with another awareness: a palpable sense of the utter lack of any such heroism in our own institutional landscape. Our official leaders, we know, are cowards and liars. They believe in nothing but the expediency of satisfying their monied keepers. They cannot conceive of doing 2 years in prison, let alone 27, for any cause whatsoever. They have no conception of what democracy -- e.g., the majority of the American population that opposes corporate domination of electoral politics -- actually looks like. They are empty and weightless, a gesturing hologram projected into the void, and their moment-to-moment on-camera babblings are instantly and perpetually forgotten. They have no mass, only the impetus of the ruling commands that propel them. And so our national "politics" are a spectacular fake, a movie made of nothing. And we Americans know it. That is why only half of us vote.
Nelson Mandela, now dead at age 95, an imperfect man in a still-unjust South African society who nonetheless actually stood for something real, reminds us -- here in our over-developed mothership of a society -- of what we desire.