Apple Pie Friday began for me with the opening ceremonies for the 2010 World Cup. I was moved to tears to see the stadium in Johannesburg filled with proud black Africans and football lovers from around the world.

If you relied on the sports commentators, you really wouldn’t understand what a truly historic day it was. Because South Africa – like our American South – was for so many years a bastion of segregation. And because, before he was Nelson Mandela, the revered civil rights leader and President, he was Nelson Mandela, the revolutionary. And thanks, in large part, to Nelson Mandela, the World Cup had come to Africa.

Sadly, we lost another extraordinary opportunity to better understand our world. If we applied the odd logic of today, the rhetoric our Presidents and TV commentators routinely use, we’d have to say Mandela was a terrorist. Like the real tea partiers who used sabotage in the war against the British.

Mandela was one of the leaders of the African National Congress, and there were brave folks of all colors and creeds – including the South African Communist Party and the well-off white women of the Black Sash – who risked life and limb to dismantle apartheid.

1960 was a pivotal year for both our countries. Here, black college students refused to leave the whites-only lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, beginning a sit-in movement that spread across the South. In South Africa, 63 protestors were murdered in Sharpesville, defining how dangerous the battle was and mobilizing a new generation.

Nelson Mandela was tried for treason and sentenced in 1962 to serve a life sentence at South Africa’s version of Guantanamo, the prison at Robben Island.

Miraculously, and thanks in part to an unrelenting international boycott of South Africa, Nelson Mandela survived almost three decades behind bars. He was released in 1990.

In his first speech as a newly freed man, Mandela explained how his African National Congress resisted apartheid in many ways, including a period of “armed struggle.”

We have such a very unique way of thinking about and talking about violence in the U.S. A double standard that probably confuses the rest of the world but seems to make sense to us.

We can invade sovereign nations pretty much whenever we want to. And we have repeatedly during my lifetime. Invariably, our leaders explain that it’s about freedom and democracy. Almost always when other people use violence, it’s about tyranny and communism and terrorism.

It’s a very comforting concept. Our bombs are good bombs. Theirs are bad bombs. Like our predator drones, remote controlled by computers in Colorado or Emerald City, zipping through the clouds, only to drop down out of the sky and miraculously take out the one terrorist among the hundreds of wedding guests.

Certainly, the Taliban are bad Afghanis. They detest free and independent women and are religious fanatics. Hamid Karzai and his opium dealing brother are good Afghanis. They might be crooks and steal elections, but deep-down they really like democracy. That seems a good enough reason for President Obama to ask one hundred thousand young Americans to risk their lives.

Did you happen to see the recent articles about Afghanistan? The one where Hamid Karzai says he doesn’t think we can defeat the Taliban? The one where the Pentagon reveals Afghanistan is sitting on one trillion dollars worth of precious minerals? Or the one that reveals that our ally Pakistan is using its spy agency and probably some of our 7.5 billion dollars in aid to train Taliban fighters?

Anyway, after a week of oil-slicked pelicans and more dreadful deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, and thinking about all of the above, I was thrilled to find myself at the Gypsy Joynt on Apple Pie Friday.

It was a very special Friday for me, because not only did I get a big slice of delicious apple pie but I saw the better side of the Gulf Coast. The Pine Leaf Boys hail from Lafayette, Louisiana, just a bit inland from the coast. And they are fine young musicians, keeping alive the Cajun tradition. It was a great gift.

And their spirit and the spirit of Apple Pie Friday stayed with me, helping me repel the dreary rain of Saturday as I stood with my sign: “It’s Time To Come Home.”

The Berkshire Record, Thursday June 17, 2010. © Mickey Friedman. All rights reserved.