Thursday, January 01, 2009

Requiescat In Pacem: Helen Suzman

Another of my personal heroes has died: Helen Suzman of South Africa, at age 91. Ms. Suzman was a white South African who fought relentlessly against apartheid as a member of Parliament, and was one of the few whites who did so. It was a long, lonely, and very dangerous role, yet she carried it out with grace, dignity, and more than a little feistiness:

She was once accused by a minister of asking questions in parliament that embarrassed South Africa, to which she replied: "It is not my questions that embarrass South Africa, it is your answers".

Helen Suzman is an excellent example of one person who dared take on an "impossible" task at great personal risk, a risk she felt was far less than the risk of doing nothing. Her actions propelled her country toward justice.

And so, in gratitude for her contribution to all of us, I offer the following memorial from Dylan Thomas.

A Refusal To Mourn The Death, By Fire, Of A Child In London

Never until the mankind making
Bird beast and flower
Fathering and all humbling darkness
Tells with silence the last light breaking
And the still hour
Is come of the sea tumbling in harness

And I must enter again the round
Zion of the water bead
And the synagogue of the ear of corn
Shall I let pray the shadow of a sound
Or sow my salt seed
In the least valley of sackcloth to mourn

The majesty and burning of the child's death.
I shall not murder
The mankind of her going with a grave truth
Nor blaspheme down the stations of the breath
With any further
Elegy of innocence and youth.

Deep with the first dead lies London's daughter,
Robed in the long friends,
The grains beyond age, the dark veins of her mother,
Secret by the unmourning water
Of the riding Thames.



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