By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
July 17, 2016
No one can explain with absolute certitude why the nation poured out so much grief at the death of Patrick Manning. While it had much to do with the part he played in our nation's development, it also has to do with a nation mourning itself, saddened by how coarse its sensibilities have become; a feeling of helplessness at its own futility and its uncertainty about where it's going and how it intends to get there. It matters little (it may even be inconsequential) that the PNM is now in power.
I was flabbergasted to read Stuart Young's comment that the Government is "in conversation with the Anglican Church, because the (Manning) family had requested that Mr. Manning's body, find its final resting place at the Cathedral and, so far, it seems that we will be proceeding along those grounds but that will take some preparation" (Newsday, July 8, 2016).
Mrs. Manning has denied making such a request, which suggests it came from Government. No matter from whom the request came, there is absolutely no good reason why the state should pressure the Anglican authorities about using the Holy Trinity Cathedral as Mr. Manning's final resting place.
I object strongly to Mr. Manning's remains being placed at the Holy Trinity Cathedral.
Church and state ought to be completely separated in a small multi-cultural and multi-religious state such as ours. The government has no business cajoling, pressuring, or even asking the Anglican Church to place the remains of a politician on sacred grounds.
Freedom of religion is enshrined in our constitution. A person is free to follow whatever religion he chooses. That I identify as an Anglican/Orisha is my business. The state should have no say in telling the Anglican Board or the Orisha community how to treat me. While I appreciated the state's desire to pay the highest respect to Mr. Manning, there is no reason why it should pressure the Anglican authorities to deviate from their principal business-in this case religious-to accommodate the wishes of any family.
The late Ellis Clarke was a staunch member of the Roman Catholic Church. He never missed a weekly service. When I questioned him about his faith, he said our stay on earth was analogous to our waiting in a state room, as guests, on the way to a heavenly banquet. He was comfortable with that conviction.
I don't know how the state would have reacted if the Clarkes wanted him beatified. Would it have written to the Roman Catholic Church and met with its officials to talk about how best to accomplish that end?
And what do we do about Dr. Eric Williams who never showed any religious preference publicly? He understood that he ought not to impose his religious beliefs upon the nation. That was as it should be. He had his ashes strewn across the Gulf of Paria so reluctant was he to be apotheosized in any way.
When an individual, particularly a leader, aspires to godly status, he comes close to committing blasphemy.
When, like Napoleon, he seeks to embody the state in his own person (Napoleon Bonaparte declared, "I am the state"), he subverts its republican ideals and encourages the creation of an oligarchy. This is why so many of us were against Mr. Manning's stated desire to establish an Executive Presidency. Could you imagine what would have happened if we had given such powers to Kamla Persad-Bissessar or Keith Rowley?
It is irresponsible for Ralph Gonzales to say that we were wrong to criticize Mr. Manning. Mr. Manning was a politician who, like all politicians, made his share of mistakes. That is why I have suggested that we immediately put into place a National Endowment for the Humanities to encourage the scholarly examination of our leaders' contributions. It is only through such a process that we can get a balanced estimation of Manning's contribution to the nation.
Let us mourn Mr. Manning as we must. Let us not make him into a god, which he was not. In time of grief we must differentiate between love and adoration; reason and emotion; deification and our human tendency to emote sympathetically for the dead. This is why Duke Orsino, in grappling with these contradictory emotions, exclaimed: "So full of shapes is fancy/That it alone is high fantastical." Shakespeare, it seems, was aware that sometimes we tend to confuse the reality of the person we love with our imaginary flights of what we would have liked him or her to be.
In time of grief we ought to exercise some control over ourselves and avoid committing national hari-kari. It is always wise to keep in mind Jesus' admonition about rendering unto Caesar...
Professor Cudjoe's email is firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be reached at @ProfessorCudjoe.
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