In a scene in the last act of the ‘The Merchant of Venice’, Shylock, the money lending Jew pursues Antonio before the Venetian court for breach of contract. Shylock prays the court to enforce the provision of the contract which entitles him, in the event of a breach, to a live pound of the defendant’s flesh. Intransigent, inflexible and vengeful, Shylock will accept nothing less than his pound of Antonio’s flesh. Portia, however, lover to the defendant’s best friend, assumes the advocacy of Antonio. And in one of Shakespeare’s favorite dramatic devices of disguise, Portia proposes to Shylock, in the hurly burly of argumentation, not so many juridical arguments as she does a moral option. A moral option based in the faith of God! And this is what she says:
“THE QUALITY OF MERCY IS NOT STRAINED, IT DROPPETH AS THE GENTLE RAIN FROM HEAVEN UPON THE PLACE BENEATH. IT IS TWICE BLEST. IT BLESSETH HIM THAT GIVES AND HIM THAT TAKES. TIS MIGHTIEST IN THE MIGHTIEST, IT BECOMES A THRONED MONARCH BETTER THAN HIS CROWN. THE SCEPTRE SHOWS THE FORCE OF TEMPORAL POWER, THE ATTRIBUTE TO AWE AND MAJESTY WHEREIN DOTH SIT THE DREAD AND FEAR OF KINGS. BUT MERCY IS ABOVE THIS SCEPTRED SWAY. IT IS ENTHRONED IN THE HEARTS OF KINGS, IT IS AN ATTRIBUTE TO GOD HIMSELF”. Act IV, scene 1 William Shakespeare
And so, the conclusion of ‘The Merchant of Venice’ turns for outcomes upon this ‘OPERATION OF MERCY’ to resolve the central conflicts: The conflicts of money, the conflicts of love, and the conflicts of law.
And it was also by this self-same ‘OPERATION OF MERCY’ that Gyude Bryant emerged on the Liberian scene in 2003, charged with the responsibility to draw a million bellicose Liberian parts into one accommodating whole. But before the ‘OPERATION OF MERCY’ was a skillful political tool, it was in Chairman Bryant’s effortless compassion and accommodation guided by principle and faith. Bryant’s ‘OPERATION OF MERCY’ was possessed of the understanding that the greatest need of men and women everywhere is the recognition and affirmation of their humanity, irrespective of their station in life. It was thru Bryant’s ‘OPERATION OF MERCY’ that the nation and people were set upon roads not taken, in a direction of better choices, to new places and paradigms of possibilities. It was Bryant’s ‘OPERATION OF MERCY’ that created the discipline to deliver to the Liberian people without variation and delay. And Gyude Bryant shone on the national stage because -MERCY- the one quintessential quality missing to Liberian political and civic life was enthroned in his heart.
In its vicissitudes, the hits and misses, the zeniths and nadirs, in the munificence of God’s wisdom, we need accept that Bryant accomplished here on earth what his Maker put him here to do. In the munificence of God’s wisdom, we need accept that God repossessed Bryant’s life according to HIS plan. And it is ALSO in this munificent wisdom that the charge and responsibility of his legacy is bequeathed to us.
Gyude Bryant is motionless. His life is extinguished, and yet, there is a great unfinished national business at hand. A business to bind the nation’s wounds, a business to untangle truth from strangulating lies, a business to lather justice to a million wrongs, and a business to produce prosperity and happiness for the people. Bryant’s tenure started THIS process which now ebbs more than it flows. The good is not the enemy of the perfect, and where we continue to throw the patriots and their industry onto the great Liberian bonfire of ingratitude, we burn the hopes and heroism, the health and happiness of millions born to this land. We wallow in the cinders of confusion and defeat when Mercy is absent. Bryant’s sacrifices, however, were not for a nation of merciless qualities, but for a nation of merciful life.
That is the contribution and character of Bryant’s life. It is incumbent upon us to seize it. For nothing that we do or say has meaning or tenure, or use in the absence of mercy, mercy towards each other, and mercy for Liberia’s life. We can only do ourselves and our country honor in saluting an icon in the new Pantheon of the Patriots; one who might be called ‘A Liberian Worthy’.
“I am a part of all that I have met
Tho much is taken, much abides
That which we are, we are —
One equal temper of heroic hearts
Strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find,
And not to yield."
-Alfred, Lord Tennyson