Paul Yeenie Harry ~ (September 11th 2005)
"...We are in another bell ringing period again. One of the pathetic situations about Liberia is that most of our people do not have the opportunity to get the necessary information that will enable them to make sound decisions. Not many people can read and write. Besides, not all those who can read and write can afford to buy newspapers. Furthermore, not all those who can read and write are interested in the facts and the truth...”
"Great men are not always wise: neither do the aged understand judgment. Therefore I say: Hearken to me; I also will show my opinion." Job 32:9,10
As I embark upon the task of advising my compatriots in this bell ringing season, my mind continuously goes to Ezekiel, that Jewish prophet whose vision, famously termed “The Valley of Dry Bones,” has come down to us as one of the great biblical events. I am fascinated by this story not only because the dialogue between Ezekiel and God is wonderful, but also because it is ever living and the scenario can be applied to my country, Liberia. Let’s see its apparent application!
I invite you to read with me the summary of the first few verses of the book of Ezekiel chapter 37. Are you ready? I hear a student of the university shout, “Sa-o!”
In the vision, God takes Ezekiel to a valley full of dry bones, makes him see the reality of the situation and asks something like this, “Hey, Ezekiel, do you think these bones can live again?”
Perhaps, God is asking, “Do you think Liberians can truly graduate from the era of war and destruction? Can they benefit from the abundant natural resources they are so blessed with? Can they be self-sufficient in food production? Can every dark corner of today’s Monrovia be lit with light? Can the eighty-percent illiteracy rate change to eighty-percent literacy rate? Can rampant corruption be something of the past? Can the eighty-five-percent unemployment be changed to eighty-five-percent employment? Can Liberians enjoy real peace? Can the tribal rivalries be something of the past? Can Liberians...”
Ezekiel, bemused and dazed by what he has both seen and heard, quickly intervenes, “God, please don’t try to tease me on this one. I don’t want to say any wrong thing to you, but please don’t tease me with your physico-spiritual joke. How can you ask me whether these dry, dissipated and disjointed bones can live again? I beg you, God, don’t confuse me. I already have much problem on my head.”
At the end of Ezekiel statement, a powerful voice echoes in the valley, “Ezekiel, do you know who the giver and sustainer of life is? By your statement, you have expressed doubts about my nature. Don’t you know that the words impossible and difficult are only found in human dictionary, and not in mine? Because of what you have said, I will …”
“Sorry, God. Forgive me. I made a mistake. If the huge rocky mountains of the earth cannot withstand your anger, who am I?” Ezekiel remarks, as he falls on his knees. He continues, “You are the person who knows exactly whether they can live again, or not? You know exactly whether Liberians are willing and ready to have a new beginning. You know whether they are content with their present condition. You know whether they want to remain being dry bones, or they want to become fleshy beings. You know if they want to remain dry bones in the valley, or dry bones on top of the mountain. You know if…?”
Ezekiel is poised to continue his long list of “you know, you know, …” but God disallows him and says, “Look, Ezekiel, stop right there! What’s your problem, Ezekiel? I only asked you a simple question and you want to lecture me? You know what? Stop your lecture, and start preaching to these dry bones; I mean, start warning them before it be too late. OK? Tell them that I will resuscitate them all. I promise that not only will I change them from dry bones to fleshy living beings, but will also take them from the valley and place them on the top of the mountain. I will …?” The prophet is so excited about the information that he does not allow God to finish.
“Wait a minute, God. Can I start preaching to them right now, Father God? Can I?” He asked. Ezekiel is excited about the assurance coming from the Almighty. It is in such a situation you hear Liberians say, “but your-seh yah!” In other words, who, in the place of Ezekiel, would not feel and act the same way? What affects the dry bones in the valley also affects Ezekiel. Their destiny is tied together. So, Ezekiel begins preaching to the dry bones; he begins warning them.
As you read along with me, can you see what I see? Just look in the valley. Oh, my God, it’s so wonderful! Each bone is being connected to the body. I can see the hipbones getting into place fantastically. I see the phalanges connecting back to the hands. I see the spinal column or backbone strengthening itself and giving strength to the medulla oblongata. Oh, look … look down the valley. What a great scene! Look… look! Can you see? The thighbones are fitting in the sockets near the hips. The arms are already well placed. Oh, my God! The toes are shaking. Oh, no, wait a minute. The head has begun to shake. There is already hair on it! Wow! The bones are both reconnecting and receiving flesh. What an incredible scene!
Look… just look on the other side of the valley. Three fully restructured bones have already become fleshy. Oh, oh, they are dancing. Yeah, they must really be excited about it! I think they have been waiting for this time and day for years. Look… among them are some teenagers. They are dancing break-dance. Oh, no, it has become a massive celebration in the valley.
Some are clapping and jumping up and down. There are no musical bands and instruments, but I see different groups dancing in different ways. Look on the other side. A group of adults are dancing Flamenco. What an exciting event! Oh, no, that’s not all! Another group is dancing the “Gbeh-mah” style, a kind of dance style associated with the Bassa people in Liberia. Oh, my God! There is now a complete jubilation in the valley!
“Aren’t they hungry?” Ezekiel asks God. “You have not seen anything, yet!” Remarks God.
Mouths are beginning to laugh and talk. Lips are already smiling and kissing. Hands are beginning to touch and hold. There are unbelievably mixed feelings and reactions in the valley. For example, eyes are starting to both see and send down tears. Heads are not only dancing to the beat of the songs; they are also allowing the brain to do some calculations.
It’s not easy! Relationship-building has actually started. Arms are hugging. I see a lady picks up a child who has just been reformed from a set of bones. She kisses it. Oh, how wonderful! The child is smiling! Look at that tall man. He is walking from the left side of the valley. I think he is looking for something, probably his wallet or trousers; I am not sure. He has a grimace on his face. He is making his way through the multitude of people straight toward the right side of the valley. Can you still see him? But, look, he is not only looking at someone, but also getting excited. What might be responsible for this? Oh, no, they have met. Oh, it’s his wife. What a wonderful reunion! Can you see? They are hugging and kissing and hugging and kissing! Wow! They must have stopped seeing each other for ages!
Yes, now, I realize that when dry bones live again, many exciting things can occur!
No, it’s really unbelievable, you know. Just look across the valley. Legs are not only jumping up and down; they are actually running here and there. What a great excitement among the parts of the body and among the resuscitated bones! I can hear them say, “We thank God for His mercy and grace. Everything truly has time. We, who were dry bones, have come back to ourselves.”
Prophet Ezekiel has succeeded. We must commend Ezekiel for his love for country and fellow men, commitment to duty and his obedience to the voice of God. Perhaps if he had not taken the courage to warn the dry bones in the valley, they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to regain their flesh, the opportunity to live again.
In the case of Liberia, there are thousands of my compatriots, preaching everywhere, both in and out of Liberia, warning the Liberian people not to make the wrong decision on October 11. Some Ezekiels are speaking; others are writing. The message is the same: Do not choose the wrong person come October 11, if you want to have a new beginning that is promising.
A reader of my articles sent me an e-mail two days ago. The second paragraph reads something like this: “If we go by your advice, then we will not elect any of the candidates in Liberia, as none of them is an angel.”
I humbly replied him that I have not mentioned the word “angel” in any of my articles. as an attribute of a good leader. Neither do I expect the candidates to be angels. I told him that I am usually disturbed by the tendency for people to generalize that angels are good beings, or for people to associate a good leader with an angel.
The Liberian people, in my opinion, are not in search of an angel; they are in search of good leaders. We are looking for a leader who will not be corrupted by power, wealth and enjoyment. We are in search of leaders who will always put the general good of the people first and foremost in every policy, plan and decision made. This is the point we have made, we are making and we will continue to make.
But even if we were to bring angels into the picture, do we want just any angels? Aren’t there good angels and bad angels? Besides, don’t bad angels sometimes appear as good angels? Check II Corinthians 11:14. Interesting also, although unfortunately, is the fact that good angels can be corrupted; they can turn to bad angels. So, saying that those who will be elected should be good leaders does not in any way mean that angels are being sought.
Just as beautiful women corrupted the angels in time of old, power can corrupt those who were decent before their election. Let’s look at the story in Gen 6:1-4, where even angels got corrupted: And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, that the sons (or angels) of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair (beautiful); and they took them wives of all which they chose…There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons (angels) of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.
In talking about Liberians electing a candidate with good leadership qualities, no angel issue should be brought into the picture. Liberians are in search of leaders who will formulate and implement policies which will improve their lot, leaders that can help them to put their own bread on table with dignity. They want leaders who will enable them to educate their children, who will create employment opportunities, who will bring about genuine reconciliation, who will take them from the valley to the mountain top, who will genuinely fight corruption, etc, etc.
A good leader must have certain characteristics by which they can be measured, characteristics which will also help us to identify bad leaders because they fall short of those characteristics. This in no way suggests that we are contending that the candidates should be perfect beings, or that they will never make mistakes. But a mistake is a completely different thing, which I am not willing to discuss in this article.
The allusion, which always attempts to look at angels as always good beings, is, in my opinion, a limited understanding of the situation. I sometimes go through some articles on line, and I read, “But candidate X is not an angel; he/she is a human being.” This statement, in my opinion, means and says nothing. This is only a kind of tricky or jejune way of evading not only the issue but also the truth of the issue.
In a related development, I received an e-mail on September 7, 2005, from one of my compatriots. He expressed some words of commendation for the focus of my article and for how the points are presented. He then mentioned that for my article to have “great merit,” I must suggest the names of one or two candidates whom I think the Liberian people should vote for, because, since I believe not all of them are good candidates, there must be one or some whom I believe are good. He might be right here.
However, in my response to him, I stated clearly that I am not in the position to identify a specific candidate in the series, because that would not be the right thing to do, in my opinion. Firstly, it would confuse the purpose of my articles, which would be unfair both to the Liberian people and to the readers. The purpose of the series is to give general pieces of advice to my compatriots (see Part One, especially). I only want to give some general hints or warnings, and not to point out, in specific terms, who they should vote for and who they should not vote for. For instance, based on experience, if I decided to give general advice to my younger brother about marriage, I would tell him what to consider before choosing a woman as wife, before deciding to marry a particular woman. I would not identify a specific girl and tell him that "this is the girl you should marry," even if I knew and favor two good girls in a community of one hundred girls. My article utilizes a similar method. I might be wrong, but that’s the modus operandi I have chosen.
Secondly, I want for my compatriots to investigate the candidates themselves based on my general advice. This is the resonant voice in each article. Hence, in my opinion, endorsing or pointing out a particular candidate in my articles could interfere with the investigative process. I can’t ask them to investigate the candidates and make a sound decision and, at the same time, tell them whom to vote for. This may create some biased picture of the whole situation. They may no longer want to continue the investigation, which I don’t want. I want them to begin the process of investigation and continue it until they have got sufficiently reasonable evidence upon which they can base their individual decision. Fair enough? I hope so!
Thirdly, I don't want my articles to become a public relation piece for a specific candidate. While it is true that there are some competent candidates in the race, and while it is also true that I would vote for one of the candidates, if I were in Liberia, in my opinion, endorsing a particular candidate in the series might render each of my articles a mere propagandistic piece for that candidate or his political party. I am not ready for this; I want to be far from this, at least in this series. Hence, I will not point out anyone!
Fourthly, the series is not a critique or an analysis of each candidate. Other writers may choose to pursue this line, but that's not what I want to do in the series. Just as my intention is not to name each bad candidate and state what makes him/her bad, I am not going to name each good candidate and state what makes him/her good. My intention is to caution my compatriots, to warn them to investigate before deciding to vote for a specific candidate.
In the series, “Do Not Vote for Such People”, which I have been writing for the last few weeks, the original plan, up to this point, had been to give fifteen pieces of advice to all Liberians, especially those who will be voting on October 11 this year, not to elect the wrong candidate. However, because of a message I received from our ancestors last night, I will no longer continue the series. This article is the last of the series.
I apologize to all those who might be hurt in one way or another, because of this decision. However, in my opinion, it is better to obey the ancestors, rather than men.
All in all, I have given nine pieces of advice. I gave three in Part One, two in Part Two and four in Part Three. They are as follows:
1. Do not vote for anyone who has exhibited dictatorial tendencies/behavior in the past, or whom you strongly believe has the potential to become a dictatorial leader. Sometimes it is difficult to recognize dictators, because during the campaign process (and sometimes after the elections), they become benevolent givers, a short-lived situation intended to confuse the electorates. Reject such people on Election Day!
2. Do not vote for anyone who is overly anxious about the presidency. In other words, do not vote for anyone who feels that the presidency is set aside for him, and him alone, for which he must get it at all cost. You will agree with me that there are those who see no other jobs to do in civil society, except to be president of Liberia. Give them back kick on Election Day!
3. Do not vote for anyone who is a religious or ethnic bigot, or who has the tendency to infuse ethnic and religious tensions in our country. Some of those in the race, and individuals working with them, squarely fall into this category; that’s why you have to be careful with your choice of candidate. Mean them with your vote!
4. Do not vote for an individual who is a complete novice to the structure and operations of a modern government. I strongly advise you not to vote for anyone who is not in tune with the dynamism of modern politics and diplomacy. Give them “wah-waye” on Election Day!
5. Do not vote for a person whose temperament is firebrand, or whose reaction to opposition leaders or the press will be nothing, but intolerance and ruthlessness. Slap them in the face on Election Day!
6. Do not vote for a person whom you believe will make militarization his national priority. Give them “double-shovel” on Election Day!
7. Do not vote for a person whom you believe has, or will have, the tendency to constantly interfere with the functions of the judiciary, thereby, incapacitating that essential branch of government to dispense transparent justice. Give them a very strong side kick on Election Day and go your way!
8. Do not vote for any candidate whose human rights records are tainted. From all indications, some of the very candidates running up and down in Monrovia should actually be taken to court and tried for their illegal activities, for the atrocities they have committed, for the human rights abuses they have subjected the Liberian people to. Send a sheriff to arrest them for trial on Election Day!
9. Do not vote for a candidate whom you believe is capable of structuring security forces that will be brutal towards the Liberian people. Give them elbow on Election Day!
Many Ezekiels are writing and speaking; they are warning and preaching. They are telling the Liberian people to choose the right people on October 11, and reject all the wrong people. This stance, when taken, will greatly enhance the reality of giving Liberians a better Liberia, a Liberia where all will be proud and happy to live, learn, work, do business and interact until the end of time. I hear a group of Liberians living in Rivercess County say, “Amen!”
As we come to the end of the series, I leave with you the poem of the series.
The Men of My Land
The men of my land!
Oh! The men of my land!
When they want power,
They are like the gentle breeze,
Touching even the grass.
But when they get the power,
They're like blood-thirsty mosquitoes,
Sparing no one, not even anemia patients;
And like the scorching sun,
Pitying no one, not even the inhabitants of the Sahara.
For now, allow me to rest my pen for the next article.
About the author:
Paul Yeenie Harry is a Liberian; he lives in Poland. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org