Armed Forces Day Parade Showcase 2016: Prototype of the Emperor’s New Clothes?

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Simply Thinking Thoughts

In my thinking thoughts last evening I pondered the significance of the observance of Armed Forces Day each year on February 11, and how germane the observance is to our current security and economic situations. Sincerely, all Liberians are obliged to observe moments of silence for those brave men-in-arms who lost their lives simply to preserve ours, on the one hand. On the other hand, we must give rounds of applause in recognition of the services of men who are presently serving in the military and paramilitary, to protect the sovereignty of our common patrimony. We say to all of you, ‘Bravo and Happy AFL Day!!!’

Howbeit, in my thinking thoughts, I soon asked myself, “Is Armed Forces Day an event to showcase our military strength, or a day for sober reflection of unfolding security events in our country?” Are we showcasing simply as a naked emperor marching in the major streets pretending he has on expensive clothes?

Story of The Emperor’s New Clothes
During my elementary school days, our Peace Corps teacher made us to read and analyze a Greek fiction by Hans Christian Andersen, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”,

The emperor had an excessive taste for expensive clothes over the governance of his empire. Each time his tailors designed a new suit he would parade through the streets of his empire with a marching band along with his cabinet. Every citizen was obliged to line the street and applaud. Due to his craving for recognition as the best dressed, two con men posed as tailors and made him to parade butt naked in the street in front of his fellow citizens. His selfish and conceited craving for recognition was at long last, assuaged.

The fake tailors promised to design an extraordinary suit for the emperor if he provided golden threads. According to them, anybody who said they did not see the cloths was stupid and unfit to serve in the emperor’s cabinet. Hence, each day the emperor and his cabinet visited the two men and watched them weaving the invisible cloths; they had scissors, needles, tape lines and machines but there were no cloths except the rolls of golden thread. “Ah”, king and cabinet would call out, “Those apparels are really splendid” although they did not see a single piece of cloth; but they said so because they were afraid of being considered stupid and not to lose their jobs.

When the so-called splendid but invisible suit was complete, the con men made the emperor to stand before a mirror and pretend he was wearing an actual suit. So he could not be seen as being stupid and unfit to be emperor, he praised the suit and rewarded the fake tailors handsomely.

On the day of the parade, the whole kingdom gathered as the conceited and proud king marched in the middle of the street with his head up high, but butt naked, and believing he had on clothes sewn with golden threads. Each time he raised his hand to wave to a section of the crowd, they shouted in pretense, “Oh that suit is so beautiful, long live our king” as the emperor marched by.

However, a little boy sitting on his father’s shoulders and watching the parade exclaimed, “But daddy, you know I am not stupid but I do not see any clothes on the King; he is naked.” Immediately somebody else in crowd also remarked, “The child is right for I too am not stupid and I too do not see any clothes on the emperor, he is naked” Soon the whole crowd began to shout “the emperor is naked, the emperor is naked”. Before an order was issued for the fake tailors to be arrested, they had fled with hundreds of rolls of golden threads and huge sum of money killing the pomp and pageantry of the emperor’s selfish parade.

Traditional Pomp and Pageantry of Armed Forces Day
Growing up as a young man in Bassa Community, I hardly missed the pomp and pageantry of each Armed Forces Day parade. The day was heralded by a 21-gun salute around 6 am; by then we had surged on the BTC and taken our respective positions around the Grand Stand to watch the parade and take count of who got the “eyes right” and who missed it. Each time one of the troop leaders stepped on the line before or after giving the salute, the crowd would roar, “He miss it, he miss” but when the salute and the left foot landed together, we would applaud as if a bag of gold had been placed in our hands; “he got it, he got it”, we would jump up and down gleefully.

As the troops marched out of the BTC to the Executive Mansion on Capitol Hill to give the final salutes, we marched with them on the sidewalks and enjoyed the rhythm of the band, and the cadence of the marchers; Oh, what joy, satisfaction and pleasure we experienced within our human souls; hunger, poverty, budget shortfalls, disappointment and whatever it was that we faced, did not exist at that point.

Before I be remiss, we were sometimes harsh on the troopers though, as we gave them all kinds of offensive titles; as troops in company “F” marched by, we shouted, “pupu platoon, pupu platoon”; Coast Guard received “Freeport rogues, Freeport rogues”; Fire Service was “Checker player, checker player; you reach king?; Yoh goin for the water?” Boy Scouts got “Chicken rogue, chicken rogue”; police got, “Taxi driver friend, taxi driver friend”; immigration for its part usually paraded middle age ladies with huge backsides. As they struggled by, we screamed, “Big tuma, big tuma. It for your one?” I remember one of the immigration officers responding, “It for me and your pa, look at your mouth!” For the band master, he would throw his rod into the air, turn around and seize it with precision and remain in the cadence of the parade as we clapped so loud as if thunder was roaring. “Yeh, the man good!!” we would scream in ecstasy.

Oh my God, the marching of the AFL and Coast Guard those days was a spectacle as they marched with adroitness of footwork, dexterity in the movement of limbs, and with a stern seriousness on their faces as if to say, “If you try anything funny in our country, you will feel our weight.” We enjoyed every moment as we marched alongside our dear beloved troops as the nation showcased its value and strength.

Our Showcase on Armed Forces Day 2016
In many countries including North Korea, Armed Forces Day is a splendor to see. The guns, armor tanks, calibers, sea and aircrafts, and all available lethal weapons reserved to be used by men in arms to protect their territorial sovereignty are showcased to build confidence in the security of their citizens.

Fellow compatriots, as we anticipate the departure of UNMIL under the recent security situations, what would we be showcasing on Armed Forces Day? Would we be showcasing the strength of our military and efficacy of our security apparatus, or a National Police Force embattled by allegations of their top brasses’ involvement in armed robberies? Would we be showcasing a Coast Guard that is not equipped to respond to security incidents on sea, or a Fire Service which has lost confidence among our citizens? Would we be showcasing a strong and secured Liberia, or showcasing a naked emperor demeaned by his own imaginations?

What would we be showcasing in these times when prominent people are slipping off boats in the very presence of their families and business partners and getting drowned while others who pay visits to renowned hotels are later found dead on the beaches? What would we be showcasing when young girls under police custody allegedly hang themselves before the very eyes of the very police, in the very police cells, and their bodies deposited in morgues without any photos to determine actual causes of death? What would we be showcasing when autopsy reports debunk Ministry of Justice official statements? Just what…would we be showcasing when temerarious politicians are making audacious allegations of government death lists and being chased by police? What would we be showcasing on this national security day when the wave of violence, increased cases of rape, and frequent cases of unexplained death has become alarming?

Of course, we would be honoring and parading our gallant men and women-in-arms, who have surrendered their lives, and those who are gone before. We hold them with high esteem and will always remember them. Bravo always to our men and women-in-arm for the good job!!

However, our prayer and hope is that we would not be showcasing a naked emperor making believe he has on clothes after fake tailors have tricked him. May our Armed Forces Day not be a prototype of the story of “The Emperor’s New Clothes”.

The Benediction
May the compassionate and tender Savior Jesus Christ make his countenance to shine upon this country; may He continue to be our Chief of Security; may He give us grace and give us peace; not the peace that mankind gives via mundane gifts based on favoritism and all kinds of fraternal bonds; but the peace that passes all understanding that Jesus Christ Himself gives. Let all of God’s children say,… AMEN!

I am simply thinking thoughts

About the author
The Rivercess man, Moses Blonkanjay Jackson is a triple Ivy League product, and a Jesuit protégé; Mr. Jackson holds a Master of Education degree from Harvard University and a Master of Education with Secondary Mathematics concentration from Saint Joseph’s University. Mr. Jackson is a Yale University Mathematics Curriculum Fellow, and a University of Pennsylvania Physics Curriculum Fellow. After serving diligently as Assistant Minister for Teacher Education for two years, the Rivercess man was dismissed. The Rivercess man can be contacted at +231 886 681 315/+231 770 206 645.

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