In the 1960s, while living and working as a teacher in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), I spent two weeks on holiday in Cape Town. The city was beautiful and modern. Except for apartheid, I might have been in any major center in the world. Nonetheless, the country’s strict adherence to separate facilities for whites and non-whites got me into trouble more than once. While visiting the Kimberly Diamond mines, for example, I was upbraided by an angry white foreman as I was crossing a bridge. “You don’t belong there,” he shouted. “Get over! Get to the other side.” Till that moment, I hadn’t realized the rope dividing the overpass marked the line between white and black identity.
Later, in Cape Town, I decided to take a commuter train to see primitive cave paintings near a small village ten miles out. On the platform opposite mine were two benches, one for whites and the other for the non-whites. A girl sat on each of the benches, both of Asian descent. Chastened by my Kimberly experience, I nudged the friend beside me. “That girl on the white bench is going to get into trouble. Should I say something?” My friend stared in my direction, her frown suggesting I had bubbles escaping from my ears. “Didn’t you read the paper?” South Africa signed a trade agreement with Japan. The Japanese are now defined as white. That other girl must be Chinese.”
Times have changed in South Africa, thankfully, but other forms of political insanity persists. The United States is no exception. Our government makes a grand show of exposing the human rights violations of other countries, yet turns a blind eye when it suits us. Malaysia, Cuba and China have the highest human-trafficking rates in the world. Does our State Department protest? Of course not. We opened an embassy in one and enjoy a healthy trade relationship with the remaining two. (The Week, August 14, 2015 pg. 6 )
Politics are a constant reminder of the mind’s capacity to rationalize an inconvenience. Truth is what we wish it to be.