Reconciliation and Remembrance
By Wilhelm Verwoerd
Occasional Paper Series
November 2003, Vol. I, Issue I
It was a cold, windy midsummer’s evening in Cork city, Ireland, at the junction of Grand Parade and South Mall, when I stumbled upon these chilling words:
“If I could grasp the fires of hell in my hands, I would hurl them in the face of my country’s enemies.”
This embittered cry for the wrath of hell to be visited on his beloved country’s enemies came from a John Mitchell, one of the “gallant men of 1798, 1803, 1848 and 1867 who fought and died in the wars of Ireland to recover her sovereign independence”.
I could identify with the desire for political freedom underlying Mr. Mitchell’s vengeful curse: as a young, white Afrikaner nationalist in South Africa during the 1960s and 1970s my political consciousness was deeply influenced by the thousands of women and children who died in British concentration camps during the Anglo Boer War (1899-1902), as well as the subsequent struggle of “my people” to overcome English political and economic domination. During the 1970s and early 1980s my political and moral vision was further blinkered by the tragically successful systematic separation of different racial groups (universally known as the system of apartheid), a separation that was deepened by a pervasive cultivation of fear that our Afrikaners’ hard won freedom will be lost if the “Communist inspired” black liberation movement achieves its goal.
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