"We owe our children the protection of our strong hand, the wisdom of our admonitions if not our still-misunderstood advice, the opportunity to grow up and eventually learn for themselves how precious, all by itself, the simple reality of oneís own life can be."
Today—though not at all for the first time in their long and colorful history—the students at the University of the Philippines are calling for a classroom walkout from all of the UP campuses. It’s not clear to me what the specific issues are, but I gather from a radio interview with the UP student regent that the big issue is—once again—“impending militarization” and the “death of academic freedom” at the state university.
There are a lot more campuses in the UP system today than when I attended half a century ago, and the student population has grown many-fold since my time. But I don’t doubt that there’ll be no shortage of fresh-faced idealism and sheer youthful energy to ensure that this latest student protest makes the headlines again—no matter how old-hat the issues are.
If only the story could stop at that—the spectacle of callow kids venting their spleen against a system they neither like nor understand. But unfortunately it has never been only that, not since—again half a century ago—the ragtag band of followers of Jose Maria Sison from the early sixties got together to resurrect, first the local communist party, then the local communist guerrilla army, with their sights dead set on converting the “flower children” of the late sixties into a perpetual recruiting ground for insurrection.
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I was reminded of this while viewing on TV the tearful testimony of parents who had lost their children to that same recruiting ground. It breaks the heart to see, not just their tears, but even more so the determination on the grim faces of their children—so young, barely old enough to shave or bleed every month—and know that, unsaved, they will likely end up dead and buried in some patch of ground cursed by their revolution.
Like others in my little corner of our generation, I’ve also lost more than my share of friends—high school mates, fraternity brothers, college buddies—to the intemperate urgings of their brave hearts but uncompleted minds, stoked by the fantasies of ideologues who have long since decamped to the decadent embrace of their European fellow travelers. Out of sight, out of the line of fire—how convenient indeed for these bitter old men!—but, unfortunately, not out of mind for each new generation that replaces the previous ones who inevitably come of age and become the wiser for it.
The friends I lost—the average age was 19—were all wasted deaths. This in no way demeans their sacrifice; it only underscores their tragedy. How much more could they have lived a full life, founded their own families, contributed to humanity—had they not fallen prey to ideologues who then acclaimed their deaths as “not lighter than a feather, but heavier than a mountain” because of the revolution they enlisted in? This is nothing but prattle from carrion vultures, feeders upon the dead.
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The UP student walkout today has nothing to do with militarization—right now just a whisper of a threat—or academic freedom. What it is really about is the continuation of a decades-long campaign by communist ideologues to advance their vision of a utopian society—a struggle they believe should be violent as well as protracted, sheltered by the umbrella of legitimate causes, sincere idealism among young hearts, and the legal protections afforded by a democratic state to all its citizens.
When a party-lister from the Sisonite Left makes it into the halls of Congress, this is not a victory for enlarging democratic space and consultation. It is opening the doors of power to those who are simultaneously also stoking an armed insurrection that is killing our soldiers, policemen, and the civilian victims of collateral damage. Both the US and the European Union have officially condemned these people as terrorists, and yet we make room for them even as they still hold on to their guns.
When students take to the streets on behalf of arguably legitimate grievances, these are not innocent assemblies but highly orchestrated mass actions of the Sisonite Left, designed not only to influence national discourse but also to keep its recruitment pipeline full. In this light, it would be foolhardy to allow these actions to go unmonitored and unrestricted—unless we too, like the Left, have lost interest in the lives and futures of the innocents being so mustered.
The rest of us are—and ought to be—better than that. These are our children, not Sison’s, not the Left’s. They are owed the protection of our strong hand, the wisdom of our admonitions if not our still-misunderstood advice, the opportunity to grow up and eventually learn for themselves how precious, all by itself, the simple reality of one’s own life can be.
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In last Sunday’s Gospel (Lk 12: 49-53), Jesus may have scared the crowds with His fiery admonition: “Do you think I have come to establish peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three…” After all, this was the same man who ordered His disciples to abandon their families, the rich youth to sell all his goods and follow Him, later even turning against His own family, even His mother, to embrace the larger community who followed Him.
On whose authority did this man go around breaking up families? On the authority of His Divine Sonship, we are reminded again and again, as in today’s Gospel (Mt 9: 18-31) which recounts three miracles one after another: the woman healed by just touching His cloak, the young girl raised from the dead, and the healing of two blind men.
For such a man as this—for such a mission as His—may families be rightfully divided. Not for anyone else, and certainly not for political charlatans.
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