A handshake and a selfie

A handshake and a selfie
President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron pose for a picture with Denmark's Prime Minister Helle Thorning Schmidt during the memorial service of Nelson Mandela in South Africa on Tuesday. (Roberto Schmidt / AFP/Getty Images)

Judging by the media's coverage of Nelson Mandela's memorial this week, the gathering in South Africa consisted primarily of President Obama appeasing enemies of the United State and snapping juvenile "selfies" with his fellow national leaders. Those stirring eulogies of the late revolutionary who guided his country out of apartheid in the early 1990s were really just a sideshow.

Our readers weren't having it.


Almost all of the letters we received about the memorial dismissed the criticism of Obama's handshake with Cuban leader Raul Castro as petty politics; in fact, several praised Obama for his gesture. And the infamous selfie? Let's just say our readers have a good sense of humor.

-- Paul Thornton, letters editor

La Mesa resident Ron Ellsworth rhapsodizes on the selfie:

"We hold these truths to be selfie-evident, that all men are created fatuously equal, that they are endowed by the tech creators with certain inalienable rights and devices, that among these are computers, smartphones and the pursuit of all artifices of happiness."

Liselotte Millauer of Los Angeles says Obama's overtures are signs of a good leader:

"What a beautiful gesture by President Obama at the memorial for Nelson Mandela: shaking hands and chatting a bit with so-called adversaries, Castro and Brazil's Dilma Rousseff.

"This shows again his deeply rooted desire for peace and friendship and his stubborn determination to make it happen where possible, even within the often icy, difficult world of global politics. This is similar to his phone conversation with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani after decades of cold silence between the countries, paving the way for the nuclear deal.

"This is the stuff we can only wish for in world leaders, and it stands in stark contrast to a remark by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.): 'Chamberlain shook hands with Hitler.'

"Americans, be proud of our president. We cannot wish for a better one."

Los Angeles resident Cathy Tennican tells us all to relax:

"Could all the shouters carrying on about Obama's interaction with Castro just take a deep breath and understand that what he did was simply good manners?"

Sol Taylor of Sherman Oaks weighs the tricky politics of memorials:

"When a national leader dies, it is customary for other leaders to attend the funeral or memorial. When Fidel Castro dies, and if Obama is still in office, would our president attend the memorial?

"When Josip Broz Tito died in Yugoslavia in 1980, leaders from more than 100 countries attended his memorial. President Carter did no; he sent his mother and his vice president.

"Eventually, our relationship with Cuba will normalize — maybe sooner rather than later. We just have to wait and see.

"Meanwhile, the president's casual handshake with Raul Castro is fodder for the far right to carry on its anti-Obama campaign. Some on the far right compared this gesture with Chamberlain's meeting with Hitler. Ridiculous."