Monday, December 9, 2013

Nelson Mandela vs. Paul Walker

I keep seeing backlash on social media whenever someone posts about Paul Walker. There's the usual RIPs but there's a lot of mention of Nelson Mandela and how people should be grieving him and not just "some celebrity."

To say that people should be grieving one person over the other is saying that one person's life has more worth than another. That's not fair to the person being mourned or to the people mourning them. If someone was telling people not to mourn your family member and to mourn someone else, how would you feel? 

In my mind, it's like comparing apples to oranges. Both men did amazing things.

Nelson Mandela was a great man. There's no doubt about that. What he did for apartheid is unimaginable. His contributions to the world will be felt forever.

Paul Walker was a great man. I don't think he can be discounted just because he was an actor. He may have been a celebrity but he was so much more than that; he actually put family and loved ones above all else and shied away from the spotlight. He died after leaving an event for the Philippines for the charity he started after the big earthquake in Haiti for goodness sakes! He was only going to go for a ride in the Porsche and then come back to take pictures with fans and sign autographs. Not many people would go back to an event after it's finished to greet fans.

He traveled to Chile to help out there, his charity helped people after the tornadoes in Moore, Oklahoma. The whole point of his charity is to connect a network of professionals with first responder training who are aimed at accelerating worldwide (my emphasis) relief efforts when disasters strike. ROWW operates on the philosophy that by making a difference in just one person's life, the world has been changed for the better. It's like the ripple effect, one act causes ripples that affect many more people. He may not have abolished apartheid, but he was on his way to doing some other great things all across the world.

I'm sure by now you've heard the story of  the military couple  he bought the $9,000 engagement ring for - anonymously. It says far greater about a person's character what they do without cameras than what they do when cameras are around.

I feel like comparing Nelson Mandela to Paul Walker is pointless because Nelson Mandela was 95 and lived a very full, long life. Paul Walker was only 40 and had so much more life ahead of him. Mandela died of a lung infection after many years of failing health. Walker died in a fiery car crash leaving his charity event. Most likely Mandela's family members had a chance to say goodbye, Paul Walker's didn't. I think that because people were so stunned when Walker died that they've been a little more vocal about it. That doesn't mean they're choosing to mourn Walker and not Mandela.

But you know what the dope awesome thing is? We don't have to choose to grieve one over the other. It's not an either or situation. We have the capacity to mourn multiple people at the same time and knowing what I do about both men, I don't think they would want us to compare them anyway.

I'll admit I've shed more tears over Paul Walker's death than Nelson Mandela's - but I've said prayers for people affected by their deaths. I think maybe because Nelson Mandela is thought of as almost a saint already that it's a little harder for me to relate to him. Of course I'm nowhere close to buying large, anonymous gifts for people either, but Paul Walker's upbringing and life was a little closer to mine and a little easier for me to relate to. If a kid from California can grow up and do some great things, maybe I can too.

I'm actually having a hard time getting over Paul Walker's death and for that I feel silly. I never had the chance to meet him though I was determined to someday. The first words out of my mouth when I found out were,"Oh my God, no! I love him." And then as I said, "He has a daughter," I teared up and walked out of the room to pull myself together.

His daughter is 15 and will never get to experience her dad teaching her to drive, watching her graduate high school, walking her down the aisle, holding her babies on his lap. A little girl lost her dad before she had a chance to grow up. And for that my heart breaks. Every single day I have a moment where I think about his daughter and what she must be going through. Every single time it makes me tear up.

What started out for me as a silly crush 15 years ago turned into genuine admiration and respect for a man who didn't let Hollywood get to him, he chose to use the gifts he'd been given and make a mark on the world. The world needs more people like him.

If I can raise my boys to be even half the men that either Paul Walker or Nelson Mandela were, I will call that a parenting success.

I know it probably sounds like I'm trying to defend why I'm mourning Paul Walker and maybe I am but I truly don't think people should tell other people who, or how to grieve. I think Mandela and Walker would agree with me.


  1. D nt feel,silly for not being able to get past it. It sucks. You loved him!! And I totally agree on comparing people's lives!! It's a horrible thing!

  2. Honestly I don't think the comparison is about saying one life is worth more than the other, or to tell anyone how to grieve. I don't identify with either of those perspectives. I think the whole comparison is really just about putting the spotlight on how celebrity worship and celebrity obsessions in our culture have really gotten out of hand.

    1. That may be, but I don't think everyone who is mourning Paul Walker is doing it only because he was a celebrity. He really focused a ton on charity too and I think a lot of people could learn how to give back and fill a need when they see one like he did.

    2. I don't think that many of his fans knew he had a charity...


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