The Liberian Government declares August 24 every year as National Flag Day. This is our National Symbol, colorfully made and symbolized by the red, white and blue. According to the flag’s designers, headed by Susannah Lewis, the red reflects the bloodshed and bravery the founders of the country encountered; the white represents purity of heart; and the blue portrays the dark continent of Africa in 1847, when Liberia and Ethiopia were Africa’s only independent states. This was what the Lone Star depicted back then.
President Sirleaf’s proclamation called on all citizens and foreigners within the republic to give prominence to the observance of the day by flying the National Flag from each building. All government offices and business houses are to be closed on that day. The President also ordered the Ministry of Education to execute appropriate programs befitting the day. The question is, with what attitude are we Liberians celebrating Flag Day? Are we truly celebrating it as we should—with manifestations of true patriotism and with determination to defend at all cost, “the sacred heritage”?
The red in the flag shows how founders and other stakeholders suffered and shed blood to raise the Liberian nation. Common sense teaches that anything one suffers to acquire is nurtured by that person because of its importance to him or her. Yes! Liberians claim that they shed blood and defended their land, but what treatment are they giving this land to indicate that they truly love Liberia? Corruption for personal gain, social discrimination, praising other countries and demeaning Liberia, public urination and defecation, dumping garbage anywhere indiscriminately, the abuse of public offices and misuse of public facilities are among the behaviors and attitudes that show that we do not love, but denigrate (defame) our country.
The white is said to represent purity; meaning, Liberians should have positive and kindly thoughts towards one another and strangers. But how positive and kind are our thoughts towards one another? A tribal and sectional divide is controlling our activities and reflecting our decision making in elections and giving out jobs. Justice is for the rich and those in occult societies. The majority of Liberians are denied their share of the country’s resources, which consistently and perennially find their way into the pockets and purses of a few. Where is the purity in the midst of this corrupt and despicable situation?
Liberia, like its flag, is 170 years old. Thank God the flag is sewn every day throughout the year, always maintaining its shiny colors. As old as Liberia is among the majority of African countries, it is yet to be connected entirely by roads. Education is so messy that our children fail en masse in public examinations. Where is the bright future we want to see for our country? Many Liberians prefer being nationals of other countries, especially the United States, and are prioritizing building properties there, not here. Electricity and running water are yet to cover even one fourth of the country. How can Liberians justify the white shining star that represents the country as shown by the blue field representing the then dark Africa, on which now stand in glittering resplendence: Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Kenya, Rwanda, Egypt, etc.?
Well, it may be argued that from 1847 to 1957 Liberia was the shining independent country on the continent. But can Liberians point out anything that makes their country different from other countries that gained independence more than a century later? If we attach seriousness to our national flag, the true purposes reflected on it should be demonstrated towards the country and its citizens. Let purity come with social inclusion; bloodshed and bravery with patriotism and nationalism. Let the white shining star come with refined education characterized by first class schools, colleges, universities, public libraries and museums in towns and cities throughout the country; improved infrastructures in health and medicine; decently built city streets, alleys and parks; four-to-six-lane highways; strong and expansive bridges; and productive and self-sufficient agriculture.
Speaking of libraries and other cultural symbols, where is our National Cultural Center? Where are all the plans and committees that followed the brilliant Independence Day Oration which Dr. Elwood Dunn delivered a few years ago? In that Oration, he called for a review of our national symbols—the Flag, the Seal and the Decorations, among others. What happened to the committees the President appointed to examine these national symbols?
And, lest we forget, what happened to the Liberian History Project?
For too long Liberia has relied on charity, and citizens have embraced so many hedonistic (pleasure seeking) activities without patriotism or vision for their country.
Let this Flag Day and other national celebrations reflect their true meanings and purposes, and not just mere pleasure and abandonment of work. Let them reflect our persistent and unflinching determination, as President Edwin Barclay, in his immortal masterpiece, “The Lone Star Forever,” admonished us to “defend the sacred heritage.”