This essay was originally published on TomDispatch and is republished here with Tom’s kind permission. Recently, Nelson Mandela turned 93, and his nation celebrated noisily, even attempting to break the world record for the most people simultaneously singing "Happy Birthday." This was the man who, on trial by the South African government in 1964, stood a good chance of being sentenced to be hanged by the neck until dead. Given life in prison instead, he was supposed to be silenced. Story over. You know the rest, though it wasn't inevitable that he'd be released and become the president of …
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Rebecca Solnit is the author of A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster and co-author with her brother David of The Battle of the Story of the Battle of Seattle, a short anthology looking at how that watershed event has been misrepresented and reproducing some of the original documents.