Friday, September 21, 2007

The death of Mandela

In a news conference yesterday, President Bush mentioned that the reason Iraq has no Mandelas is because "Mandela is dead." This must have come as a surprise to Nelson Mandela, but then again, he has suffered through seven years of the Bush administration like the rest of us, so maybe not. Unlike with most of his gaffes, I have some degree of sympathy for the President on this one. Once someone has dropped out of the public eye for awhile, you tend to lose track of their status, breathing wise. I thought Mandela was alive, but if someone had insisted to me that he was dead, I would not have argued the point.There is even a web site called, I think, dead or alive, which you can turn to to help you out on these delicate questions.That , or you can call my friend Bruce Bennett who has an encyclopedic knowledge of everyone's death, no matter how obscure.Bruce is from a small East Texas town, and that kind of thing just flows naturally to him. None the less, he is a great assett.

Back in the 80s there was a game show on MTV called Remote Control. The playes sat in Lazy Boy Recliners and each had a large remote control which would turn the T.V. monitor they were watching to a category for a question they had to answer. My favorite category was called "Dead or Canadian". A name would be flashed and you had ten seconds to decide whether that person was dead or Canadian. I often wondered if they would accept either answer as correct for Lorne Green, or whether death overrode nationality.I miss that show.

My ownmost recent brush with ambiguous death came last year at a funeral. My first legal boss,Judge Charles Barrow, had died.I knew he had been alive, although many of my friends did not. At any rate, at the funeral I saw Judge Onion who had once been the Presiding Judge of the Court of Criminal Appeals. I had not seen him in at least fifteen years. I walked over to a friend that I knew had also known him also and told him that I was shocked that Judge Onion was not only still alive, but that he looked exactly as he had the last time I saw him. Frankly, I had thought that he was dead.

I urged my friend to come with me and tell him that he looked just as he had back in 1979. Fortunately for me, my friend stopped me just in time. It turned out that Judge Onion had been dead since the 90s and that the person I was looking at was the late Judge Onion's twin brother who also had been a Judge. I was saved from a particularly humiliating moment in the middle of a funeral reception. Still, I have played the "what might have been" scenario over in my mind a dozen times since then. What if I had walked over and said that.Sure it would have been awkward, but I would have gotten a blog to remember out of it.

At any rate, Mandela is alive. The current President of South Africa assured everyone of that last night.The report I read mentioned the fact that "South Africans are sensitive about Mandela being referred to as dead."Like it happens all the time. Maybe it does. All anyone has to do is call Bruce Bennett before they open their mouths. Are you listening Mr President ?


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