Sunday, September 12, 2010


NYT: "On Sept. 12, 1977, South African black student leader Steven Biko died while in police custody, triggering an international outcry."

I first heard the song above during the summer of 1982, and found it deeply moving. A few years later, the movie "Cry Freedom" brought the story into even more painful focus for me.

As disgusted as I often am with my fellow human beings, stories like that of Steven Biko prevent the small, guttering candle of hope from being entirely extinguished in my heart. I think it would be absurd to suppose that he voluntarily made the sacrifice he did; on the other hand, he had the courage and tenacity to keep fighting for truth and freedom when he knew perfectly well it put his life at risk. By any reasonable measure, that makes him a hero to be admired and emulated. That he did, in the end, lose his life as a result is irrelevant to his heroism. But it is that loss that brings tears to my eyes, as I sit here, removed in time, space, and culture from a man I would have loved to meet and get know. A man not too different from me in age, but so very different in the strength of his convictions.

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