Undo The Damage Through Divine Healing
My fellow Liberians:
It is said that before a professional weaver weaves a new mat, he or she first studies the pattern and design of the old mat. By examining the old, the weaver decides whether to produce a replica, or weave the new mat with a different pattern and design. It is, therefore, safe to conclude that in order to produce a more functional and attractive mat, the pattern and design of the old mat must be well understood.
As we prepare for 2005, let us take a moment and reflect on the year just ended. Better yet, why not broaden our perspective by reflecting on events of the past 10, 20, or even 40 years? Considering Liberia today looks much as it did a half century ago, it might even be a better idea to reach all the way back to the early 1800s. Because if there is any truth to the argument that reviewing an existing mat can to a large extent determine the outcome of another that is yet to be weaved, then plans for 2005 must take into account known facts regarding Liberia’s early years.
Liberia undoubtedly is a unique country, and so are its problems. It came into existence when American philanthropists, seeking to remedy a grave injustice, conceived the idea of a homeland in Africa for Blacks who had been enslaved for several centuries. Others, whose aims were far removed from humanitarian considerations, also joined the resettlement efforts. However, resettling former slaves in Africa would in no way eliminate the effects of long-term captivity and the dehumanizing experience. By the 1800s, Blacks in America were not only physically constrained; they also had become mentally enslaved. Having been conditioned through extreme cruelty, slaves in America learned to revere their master while being vicious to their own kind.
Emancipated slaves in America were repatriated to settlements in West Africa that were governed by white Americans from the early 1820s to the mid 1840s. Mr. Joseph J. Roberts – a mulatto born in the state of Virginia, USA – replaced the last white governor -- Thomas Buchanan. Later, Mr. Roberts became the country’s first president and was again elected as the seventh president. With little or no interaction between the former slaves prior to their arrival in Africa, it was difficult to perceive of themselves as having a common destiny. However, from their respective plantations, they brought along issues familiar to all slaves, including that of social stratification based on the hue of a person’s skin. This discriminatory practice caused tension between settlers of lighter complexion (mulattos) and those of a darker hue. Soon the two groups were locked in a bitter rivalry that evolved into a major power struggle following the decision of the American patrons to cease all funding to the settlements. Even religious leaders oftentimes were biased towards one group or the other depending on their skin color. There is no doubt squabbling between mulattos and the darker skin settlers gave rise to the current contentious political climate and the dysfunctional social structure prevailing in our country.
It is often said, show me your friends and I’ll tell you the person you are. In the case of Liberia, this statement could be appropriately rephrased as follows: show me your leaders and I’ll identify your country. The emancipated slaves from America unintentionally set the stage for the violence, confusion, and the disunity that contemporary Liberians have come to know. Products of extensive social engineering, the leaders of Africa’s first republic replicated the exact conditions that shaped their behavior. In fact, the very psyche of slaves from America was in tune with such concepts as, look out for number-one and survival of the fittest. This thinking, in part, emanated from firsthand knowledge of the devastating consequences of a slave master’s discontent, as well as the belief that only the strong survive. These were the hard lessons that shaped the character of our Founding Fathers.
Given the background and psychological profile of those who laid the foundation of this country, is it any surprise a contemporary Liberian would steal money intended to build roads, schools and hospitals and divert it to personal use? From where does a typical Liberian get the moral grounding to know it’s wrong to destroy his homeland only to seek the comforts of a foreign nation, such as the US? And why is it so shocking that a Liberian would murder hundreds of his compatriots for a position in government and think nothing of it? Aren’t we all products of our environment -- or better yet, the culture in which we were bred?
The history of Liberia is the story of every Liberian, including those who today profess to be an indigenous. Generations of indigenous Liberians willingly imbibed hefty dosages of the potion which induces the slave’s mentality. Like the settlers (or the Americos) who at every turn strove to emulate the customs of their former slave masters; indigenous Liberians for decades eagerly adopted the customs of the Americos. As a result of this voluntary assimilation, contemporary aborigines themselves unknowingly have exhibited slave tendencies. Many gave up indigenous names, discriminated against their own kinsmen, and on occasion unleashed extreme cruelty against fellow aborigines. Slavery is not merely a physical condition; it is also mental. Therefore, Liberians must at all cost seek liberation from this degenerative and seemingly hereditary psychosis.
There are many of you who believe the presidential and general elections scheduled for October 2005 will usher in lasting peace and finally place Liberia on the path of sustained recovery. As optimistic as I am about the upcoming elections, I do not believe it is a panacea. Liberians have held elections since 1847, and in each of these elections winners have emerged. As you may recall, Charles Taylor in 1997 was declared the winner of the presidential election. Unhappy with his style of governance, some took up arms and launched an insurgency. In an effort to halt the violence, Liberians in 2003 met in Ghana and elected Charles Gyude Bryant to replace Charles Ghankay Taylor. But before long, Bryant’s poor performance became an issue of discussion. Now it is widely believed his transitional administration is more corrupt than that of Charles Taylor’s. But haven’t we heard this refrain before? Not long ago, Charles Taylor’s administration was said to be more corrupt than Samuel Doe’s, even though President Doe earlier had been branded the worst leader Liberia had ever known. And before that, William Tolbert’s administration was considered more corrupt than Tubman’s, so much so that Liberians emasse celebrated when the 19th president was murdered in office.
Why does leadership of this country keep falling to persons who generally have behaved unpatriotically? Perhaps this question can best be answered by first addressing the following issue: From where do our leaders come? Obviously, past and present leaders of Liberia, whether elected or not, have come from our midst. Why then have they consistently failed to meet our expectations? Simply put: the men and women who have risen to leadership positions in Liberia are no different than us! Liberians, like peoples everywhere, are inclined to choose leaders who generally reflect their values. As a people, our values are rooted in concepts held by the pioneers who were former slaves. These men and women unknowingly set the stage for chaos, as shown by their ignorance in allowing a person’s skin tone to determine his or her station within the society. Now more than a century later, Liberians are divided, distrustful of one another, and generally unpatriotic. The seed of discord planted at the birth of the nation has grown into a mighty tree that is alive and well. This is evidenced by the more than 30 candidates vying for the presidency at a time when Liberia is in desperate need of healing.
To undo the damage, contemporary Liberians must revisit our fragmented history carefully observing patterns and trends. We also must admit that the vices of our leaders are a reflection of our own shortcomings. The Liberia built on the 1847 emancipated-slave model cannot and will not survive. Its architects were unwilling products of prolonged psychological conditioning designed to produce weakness through self-hatred, envy, jealousy, fear, suspicion and dependency. Therefore, we must eradicate the prevailing slave culture and build a new nation based on rule of law and a positive liberated mind-set. To achieve this, the nation must undergo a spiritual reformation. We need God’s intervention in order to protect future generations from the long-term consequences of slavery currently hampering Liberia’s progress. Only then will the average citizen truly embrace the virtues of love, integrity, honesty, equality, respect, freedom and justice. Only then will Liberians have the wisdom to choose moral leaders.
WE WISH YOU AND YOUR FAMILY A HAPPY AND PROSPEROUS NEW YEAR!
About the presenter: Mr. T. Q Harris is a candidate for president of Liberia. He is currently the standard bearer of the Liberian National Union Party (LINU) and is looking forward to leading the coalition of patriotic political parties (CPPP) in the 2005 elections. Mr. Harris in 1997 campaigned as an independent candidate for the presidency and later become the vice presidential nominee of LINU. He now serves as General Chairman of Liberia Contemporees United Patriotic and Strong (Contemp UPS). For more information, log on to the following Web sites: www.republicofliberia.com and www.tqharris.com