What Are We Learning from What We Read?

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Every day the Liberian public is served many newspapers sold by newsvendors in a few homes, in offices and in the traffic. Some of the headlines, which most people only read, or hardly get past the lead sentence, are bombastic (pompous, overbearing). But some other headlines are sober, designed to make people stop and think.

The question we pose in this Editorial is: What are people learning from what they read?

For example, what are our people learning from the all too frequent reports spread across the newspapers each day about corruption?

What are our young people learning when they read about their colleagues, youthful like themselves, caught steadily stealing from our banks? The banks had employed them to handle and manage other people’s money and, faced each day with all this money before them, some of these young people allow themselves to be tempted and take away what does not belong to them. When they are caught, as is sure to happen, as we say in Liberia, “Every day for thief man, one day for master,” their names are plastered all over the newspapers, and their reputations ruined. Some are able to elope (run away), but for how long?

How long indeed, for “bad habits die hard.” When the runaway felons land somewhere else, it is only a matter of time before they are caught again.

What, we ask again, are we learning from the story many papers carried this very week about all those—1,500 of them—being deported from the USA back to Liberia?

A lot of them were able to get away to America, taking their bad habits with them, thinking that since America is a free country, they can go there and continue, with impunity, their mischief and wickedness. Many ended up in jail until, yes, this land of opportunity, America, having no use or time for miscreants (scoundrels, criminals, rebels), put them on a plane and deport them back home.

What are we learning from all this?

The simple lesson to learn from this is that crime or evil does not pay. But how many of us are learning this?

In this connection, people must be wondering what happened to Jeffrey Gbatu, who was one of the key members of the People’s Redemption Council (PRC) that in April 1980 overthrew the government of President William R. Tolbert, Jr., killed him, his topmost officials, and so many others. Then, when Master Sergeant Samuel K. Doe and his Krahn clique, in typical reflection of Animal Farm, started turning on non-Krahns in the 17-27 enlisted men that participated in the coup, and eliminating them beginning with the very Vice Head of State, Thomas Weh Syen, a Sapo from Sinoe, and others from Nimba County, a few—not many—of the enlisted men were able to get away. Among these was
lucky Gbatu – for had he remained in Liberia, he would have perished like thousands of his fellow Nimbaians at the hands of Doe’s death squads.

Many people said Gbatu was lucky to escape to America for safety. There, he furthered his education, got employment and sent his children and other dependents to school.

But what happened? Why was he deported? What, after over a quarter century, caused his day of reckoning to come? General Gbatu will one day tell his own story, which will be a lesson for us all. But will we learn from it? Will we read in detail what he will have to say? Or will we quickly glance at the headline and move on, failing to grasp the essence of this tragic denouement (pronounced daynoomon, meaning finale, ending)?

What have our people learnt from the hundreds of bank defaulters—a story that has appeared in the newspapers in the past few weeks? What have we learnt from those who have been “named and shamed” by having their names plastered in the papers as miscreants who borrowed and refused to pay back?

Contrast that with people like President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Cllr. Christiana Tah, Mr. Alex Cummings and Dr. J. Mills Jones and so many others who lived in America for many years, educated their children there and climbed to the pinnacle of international and public service and corporate America (The United Nations, academia, Coca Cola and Bretton Woods, World Bank, International Monetary Fund) with outstanding success and returned home with dignity, honor and respectability.

(Read Part II of this Editorial on Friday, Nov. 4).

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