"What you must understand," the taxi driver lectured, as he hurtled me through the streets of Johannesburg, "is that we're only a teenager in democracy. Your country is much older, more mature. You're an old man, and we're a child at this."
While I've traveled the breadth and width of South Africa many times over the past 25 years, I hadn't seen his country in that light until he put it just so. Now, after hearing this university-educated driver describe his homeland with a mix of pride and frustration, his words resonated on so many levels.
Since the 1990 capitulation of the apartheid regime to internal and international pressure, the Republic of South Africa has emerged as a fledgling democracy. Its constitution, modeled in great part on the U.S. Constitution, is a model for the African continent. Yet, for all its success at transitioning from its past as a violently racist, minority-rule society to the contemporary one-person, one-vote democracy, its people struggle to find equilibrium in the meaningful demands of racial diversity and social fairness.
Here's a graphic example: During my brief trip there last month, the story of the moment that gripped the nation revolved around a satirical painting of South African President Jacob Zuma, which portrayed the 70-year-old with his genitals exposed.