Our heroes are not flawless. They are men and women who did extraordinarily brave things but who were, and are, flawed human-beings. They may even be deeply problematic and sometimes progressive in one aspect while being reactionary in another. When we don't view them within the complexities of their legacies, we elevate them to gods and in the process, deny them the right to be human.
We must get to a point where we view people in all their layeredness, where multiple realities can exist about them, and where the worst of these don't erode their greatness. The Thomas Sankara who presided over revolutionary change in Burkina Faso also presided over extrajudicial executions and arbitrary detentions of opponents. The Winnie Madikizela-Mandela who was a one-woman army was also participant in atrocities committed by the MUFC that reported to her. The Morgan Tsvangirai who helped Zimbabwe fashion a higher civilisation was also a man who became apoplectic when criticised and whose moral conduct was questionable. This is true of all leaders. ALL. But society insists on absolutism, on defining leaders as either absolutely revolutionary or absolutely regressive, as completely good or completely bad. It denies reflection on the sum total of who they are.
Our heroes are not flawless. And to recognise their flaws is not to delegitimise them. It is also not an attack on them. There is no need to defend to the death their flaws as though these make them less worthy of being deemed heroic. There's nothing radical about canonising people, about according them undue sainthood. Our heroes are not flawless and they are not saints. They are human-beings - as dynamic as they are flawed and as strong as they are vulnerable. We must humanise them. Always, we must humanise them.
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