Lessons from a martyr
LOOKING ASKANCE - Joseph Gonzales (The Freeman) - October 13, 2019 - 12:00am

Accolades, left and right, front and center, rained down when the news came roaring round that activist Carlos Celdran had passed away at the young age of 47.

Not just accolades, but insults too, as the disgruntled sectors of society he had managed to offend in his too-short life reared their jubilant heads and spewed bile upon his funeral parade. Well, all I could think of was that the gorgons could rejoice now in the abrupt snuffing-out of his life, but the legend that Carlos has become, as we have seen in the eulogies and editorials that poured out, would eventually outlive all of their insignificant lives.

By his death, the provocateur, who dared take on venerable institutions like the Roman Catholic Church and  formidable opponents such as the President and his supporters, reignited discourse on the definition of what "love of country" is.

When one loves his country, is it his duty to defend the status quo and the present powers that be?  Is it manifested by the patient acceptance of suffering, and the exercise of an insanely patient ability to wait until promises are eventually delivered, so much like the promised land underpinning the entire philosophy of the Church?

Or, is love of country the incessant critique of what ails society, the application of an unforgiving lens, and hence, the non-acceptance of the dole-outs, of the crumbs, from the greedy capitalists, the corrupt politicians, and the abusive law enforcers?  The rejection and refutal of crap from self-serving institutions, which sought to preserve the status quo? The voicing out of discontent?  The call to arms?  The fearless confrontation of societal ills?

Carlos Celdran embodied the latter.  He personified dissent.  He eschewed the mentality of cattle waiting to be fed by their herders, landowners, and ministers, and preferred to take action.  Colorful, dramatic action.  He  demonstrated his beliefs the way he knew how: via performance art, delivered with the articulate vocabulary and that chutzpah that only comes from being born within the elite. As a member of the upper class, Carlos was fearless, even as against members of his own class.

I am not sure that the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act, the law that finally allowed some form of birth control, would have passed Congress without Celdran's loud and vociferous support.  Drawing attacks from concerned priests and nuns that would have left Jesus Christ gasping at the way his name was being used to justify harassment and oppression, the bill finally made it through the legislature with the help of Celdran's theatrics.  Of course, that Celdran was being prosecuted and vilified by the Catholic hordes had much to do with promoting discourse on the bill.

(Upon his death, Ms. Ongpin of The Manila Times reports that the Archdiocese issued a statement that it had nothing to do with the criminal case for "offending religious feelings" that was hanging upon Celdran's pretty neck and that had kept him in self-imposed exile in Madrid, pinning the blame instead on lawyers of the Catholic faith

Ridiculous.  The Church had everything to do with its flock of lawyers and the spinning of the wheels of traditionally -slow justice.  At the very least, it had in its hands the ability to do something, anything to try to dismiss the case.  To preach forgiveness while washing its hands off an unpleasant matter that would result in delivering it a moral victory is the height of hypocrisy.  But given their two thousand year history of just that hypocrisy, what else can we expect.)

So now Carlos Celdran is gone, and we are still left to grapple with this, our nation that is gasping to survive.  With a talented population raring to escape its confines, with the not-so-telented or not-so-brave sticking it out and hoping for the best, with infrastructure that is breaking apart, with leasers out to enrich or empower themselves, with disease breaking out in many pockets and corners, what have we to be proud of?

There is much to be learned from Celdran's life.  That it is possible to be a member of the elite while serving the country. That it is no contradiction to be artistic while being patriotic. That being a history lover does not mean being boring or stifling.  That good people do get recognized, despite the swirl of fake news and church sermons. That it is possible to be lionized while being vilified.

Will the next martyr step up, please?

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