Desmond Tutu has been busy lately. Two weeks ago he wrote an editorial calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons. A week later he joined an international anti-tobacco campaign. Last month he condemned American drones for killing Muslim terrorists. Last summer he denounced a military-themed NBC Reality Show.
A grinning and giggling social butterfly, Tutu is always going somewhere and expressing his opinion on something. One minute he’s in Myanmar and the next minute he’s weighing in on Bradley Manning. Wait a little longer and there will be a Tutu column, video or letter on climate change, the death penalty or the price of tea in China.
Tutu retired two years ago, but he hasn’t slowed down. Instead he has become one of those celebrities who desperately cling to fame long after they should have let go by showing up everywhere and opining on everything.
Not only is Tutu an expert on international taxation and television, but he is obscenely eager to tell every country what they should be doing. You can’t go very long without a Tutu column lambasting Sri Lanka or Israel or some other part of the world. Tutu will occasionally even take the time to whack Zimbabwe, but generally has less to say about his own country.
Tutu’s favorite international targets may have their faults, but few of them are really as bad as his own native South Africa. Two years ago, Tutu denounced South Africa’s Zuma government for being worse than the Apartheid government, but he has less to say about the general state of affairs in the hell’s own acre that is the new South Africa.
Last week, while Tutu was joining his campaign against tobacco, a 7-year-old girl who had been sent to deliver a set of keys by her grandmother was raped to death in South Africa. Her story ended on a dirty street, but it is not an unusual story in a country where 1 in 3 girls will be sexually assaulted before their 18th birthday, where 13.6% of the African population is HIV positive and raping children is believed by many to be a cure for AIDS.
Tutu is not unaware of these facts. Occasionally he will take a break from traveling to some distant part of the world to bemoan a domestic horror in his own backyard, but he never stays committed to fighting for change. The man whom so many think of as a fighter for justice in his own South Africa has shown that he would rather play the international stage; traveling around the world to receive honors and praise.
Even Tutu’s greatest explosion of outrage at President Jacob Zuma came not over his rape trial or his corruption, both of which Tutu only listlessly condemned, but the South African government’s denial of a visa to the Dalai Lama.
It wasn’t so much the raped women and the murdered children, the dead mine workers or the murdered white farmers, who troubled the retired archbishop, as being humiliated on the international stage of humanitarians by his own government.
Desmond Tutu has never been a humble man. “We marched in Cape Town, and the Berlin Wall fell down two months later,” he once declared. And all the international attention has only made him more arrogant. He has also never been a particularly nice man. The other Tutu, the one who doesn’t show up with the Dalai Lama to speak at length about the virtues of forgiveness, is the one who compared the “Jewish Lobby” to Hitler and Stalin and sneered that “Jews seem to think that they have cornered the market on suffering.”
While Tutu only has so much time for the suffering 7-year-old girls dying in South African streets, he has made the country of the people he seems to think have cornered the market on suffering into his special project.
While Desmond Tutu calls for a boycott of Israel, he collaborates with Hamas leaders on projects such as the Global March to Jerusalem. Tutu refused to share a stage with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair over the Iraq War, but urged Israel to negotiate with Hamas. Tutu described Israel’s blockade of weapons shipments to Hamas as an “abomination” while calling for an international boycott of Israel.
“I never tire of speaking about the very deep distress in my visits to the Holy Land; they remind me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa,” Tutu wrote in an open letter calling on Johannesburg University to end its association with Israel’s liberal Ben-Gurion University. And indeed Tutu never seems to tire of speaking about Jewish depredations. It’s the abuses still taking place among black people in South Africa that Tutu has much less time for.
Desmond Tutu has acknowledged the dreadful situation in South Africa today, but at a much lower pitch than when he denounces Israel. And it’s easy to see why. Tutu’s international stature rests on the myth that he healed South Africa. But South Africa has not been healed. South Africa is deeply wounded and bleeding to death. As an international star on the Elders celebrity circuit, Tutu is a hit. As a healer, he is an abysmal failure.
Attacking Israel is easier for Tutu than healing his own country. The Archbishop Emeritus long ago lost his faith in South Africa and has been running around the world to escape the ANC’s ugly legacy. Attacking Israel has become a perverse substitute for fighting for the soul of his own people. Beating up on the Jewish State allows Tutu to aspire to a moral stature, even if it is a stature drawn from the ugly heart of his own notorious anti-Jewish bigotry.
“The Jews thought they had a monopoly on God,” Tutu once said. These days Tutu thinks that he has a monopoly on god, laughing it up with the Dalai Lama while denouncing Christianity for creating the KKK. To millions of liberals around the world, Tutu has become a miniature deity. A giggling deliverer of empty profundities about responsibility who runs away from the horrors he spawned in South Africa.
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