Except F.W. de Klerk's Philadelphia speech turned out to be scheduled for Monday and not tonight, as I had thought when I accepted the tickets from a colleague who couldn't use them, and the crowd was there to hear the Philadelphia Orchestra play Wagner, Beethoven and Prokofiev. There probably wasn't an Afrikaner, Zulu, Xhosa, Indian or Englishman in the place.
The evening was not a total loss from a crime perspective, though. I'd heard de Klerk speak before -- in 1993, with Nelson Mandela, when the two men received Philadelphia's Liberty Medal for engineering South Africa's transition from apartheid to democracy. But I didn't know until tonight that de Klerk's ex-wife had been murdered in 2001, in a crime that drew high-level outrage in South Africa. A young security guard received two life sentences for the killing and, as nearly as I can gather from my brief, casual research, thus ended the case.
But one can imagine what passion and paranoia the crime must have stirred even seven years after South Africa's first democratic elections. Who would want to kill the ex-wife of the country's last apartheid-era president? White nationalists enraged that de Klerk had given away the store? Black nationalists enraged by apartheid-era oppression?
Now, since my knowledge of the crime's history is approximately zero, everything in this post could be sheer nonsense. But the affair has me wondering how long it takes for a society shaken by revolution or war to become "normal" when it comes to crime. How long before the public stops seeing crimes as aftershocks of history and instead attributes them to "normal" causes like greed, lust and random violence?
© Peter Rozovsky 2011