Few of the words of tribute and condolence from around the world after the recent death of former South African President Nelson Mandela were more eloquent than those spoken by America’s chief executive.

But perhaps the most powerful ones Barack Obama used to honor the man who ultimately forgave those who had kept him imprisoned for 27 years were these: “(Mandela’s release from prison) gave me a sense of what human beings can do when they’re guided by their hopes and not by their fears.”

The irony is that millions in President Obama’s own nation live by the converse of that philosophy. Far too many easily-led Americans are encouraged to make daily decisions, run their lives, spend their money and exercise their votes based on suspicions and fears stoked by individuals or groups that all too often reap enormous financial gains by appealing to mankind’s baser instincts.

One might think that during the holiday season the self-serving billionaires, bombastic talk radio personalities and blow-dried television infotainers who generate obscene profits through efficiently and continuously creating distrust and divisiveness would feel a twinge of guilt or regret over their ill-gotten gains, but that’s unlikely to happen. The Faustian bargain these soulless charlatans have struck continues to provide them with fabulous material wealth, but at the apparent expense of their honor, conscience and ability to feel shame.

Andrew D. Young

Cumberland