It hasn’t happened for the last several days since news broke of the conviction of shock activist Carlos Celdran for the crime of peforming acts “notoriously offensive to the feelings of the faithful”. I’ve been waiting for some bozo to come up and liken Celdran with the late Rosa Parks, the quiet unassuming lady who defied the law and became a prominent symbol of the United States’ Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s. So far I’ve been disappointed. Perhaps they don’t teach history in Philippine schools nowadays.
Rosa Louise McCauley Parks (February 4, 1913 â€“ October 24, 2005) was an African-American civil rights activist, whom the U.S. Congress called “the first lady of civil rights”, and “the mother of the freedom movement”.
On December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, Parks refused to obey bus driver James F. Blake’s order that she give up her seat in the colored section to a white passenger, after the white section was filled. At the time, laws were in effect in many American states that mandated segregation in most public facilities on the basis of race. These laws specifically limited African Americans’ access to public transport such as buses. The first four rows of seats on each Montgomery bus were reserved for whites. Buses had “colored” sections for black people generally in the rear of the bus, although blacks comprised more than 75% of the ridership. The sections were not fixed but were determined by placement of a movable sign. Black people could sit in the middle rows until the white section filled; if more whites needed seats, blacks were to move to seats in the rear, stand, or, if there was no room, leave the bus.
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Parks was not the first person to resist bus segregation. Others had taken similar steps in the twentieth century, including Irene Morgan in 1946, Sarah Louise Keys in 1955, and Claudette Colvin nine months before Parks. NAACP organizers believed that Parks was the best candidate for seeing through a court challenge after her arrest for civil disobedience.
Parks’ act of defiance and the Montgomery Bus Boycott became important symbols of the modern Civil Rights Movement. She became an international icon of resistance to racial segregation. She organized and collaborated with civil rights leaders, including Edgar Nixon, president of the local chapter of the NAACP; and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a new minister in town who gained national prominence in the civil rights movement.
What was at stake when Rosa Parks decided to take matters into her own hands on that fateful day in December of 1955? A lot. To many people today, racial segregation — and outright being denied access to public transport — on the basis of skin colour is quite simply unimaginable. The US’s segregation laws were absolutely unjust to its very core.
So from that perspective, let us now see if Celdran’s act of defiance of the law, the disruption to a religious service he caused, the offense taken by devout Roman Catholics as a result, and the circus stirred up by the Philippines’ chattering classes in his defense measures up to the class act that is Rosa Parks’s contribution to the cause of racial equality in the United States.
The guiding question for us to evaluate the degree of nobility in Celdran’s Damaso stunt in this context is quite simple:
What was so unimaginably unjust about the status quo Celdran was supposedly “protesting”?
Several days of national racking-of-brains amongst the Philippines’ social media elite seems to have failed to come up with a convincing enough rationale to hold up the Damaso stunt as a noble enough galvanising symbol of the cause for Filipino “freedom”. The most eloquent claim to some semblance of substance underpinning any reason why Celdran should not go to jail comes in the form of an excerpt from Marck Ronald Rimorin’s latest blurb…
If not for a â€œDamasoâ€ stunt, we would not have stirred the ambiguity between the secular and the religious. If not for his bold recourses, we would not have the kind of animus that helps us rethink the relationship between Church and State. If not for that act of boldness â€“ and yes, the oversights that came with it, we would not have had, in part, an RH Law.
Hmmm.. okay. So Celdran is now a champion of the highest order for the cause for stirring “the ambiguity between the secular and the religious.” Right.
The next step then is to justify exactly why it would have been so unimaginable that Filipinos not be aware of the importance in this “ambiguity” being resolved before Celdran’s heroic stunt. Oh yeah, if not for Celdran, we arguably would not have an RH Law today. And so why then is a world where Filipinos lack an RH Law so unimaginably unjust? Before the RH Law was enacted, were Filipinos who wanted to buy condoms in a drug store clubbed senseless by riot policemen or stoned to death by masked men in robes? Were poor uneducated Filipinos routinely forced to churn out a brood of seven at gunpoint? Were condom users made to wear a scarlet letter on their sleeve?
As a noted female blogger who I admired but no longer blogs reminded everyone way back: Get a grip.
Shock activists like advertising professionals and marketers live off the self-imposed delusions of inadequacy that festers within the hearts and minds of their starry-eyed audience. When we begin to count what we have rather than what we don’t have, perhaps only then will we begin to rely less on the words and spectacles delivered by flamboyant “heroes” and, yes, a parasitical class of men-in-robes promising us everything in death and nothing in life.
[NB: Parts of this article were lifted from the Wikipedia.org article â€œRosa Parksâ€ in a manner compliant to the terms stipulated in the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License that governs usage of content made available in this site.]
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.