The Miriam Webster Dictionary defines Patriotism as having or showing love that a person feels for his or her country. George Orwell, in his essay, “Notes on Nationalism” maintains that Patriotism means “devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force upon other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally”.
Patriotism is a cardinal virtue required of all citizens. The signing of the Bill and Declaration of Independence on July 26,1847, the design and sewing of the country’s flag by Susannah Lewis and others, and the unfurling of the new Flag on August 24, 1847 were all brave acts of Patriotism.
The composition of the National Song the Lone Star Forever by Edwin J. Barclay was another act of patriotism and to this day the rendition of the “Lone Star Forever” always evokes strong feelings of Patriotism, especially when rendered prior to the commencement of an international soccer match.
There are countless examples in our history of heroism and Patriotism. The land area that Liberia occupies today was not all acquired through military conquest, but rather through treaties of cooperation and friendship.
And this was exemplified by the heroism and Patriotism of local chiefs and peoples who fought and resisted the advances of French colonialist designs on what was then mere outlines of the nascent Liberian state as well as armed incursions by Samory Toure into what was then Liberia.
The Lofa County town of Selaga is revered by local people as the focal point of that resistance which was symbolized by the sacrifice of Chief Woni. Elsewhere in history, we know of the daring and Patriotism of Elijah Johnson who resisted overtures by British colonialist naval officers who proposed to hoist a British flag in Monrovia in return for military assistance to combat indigenous resistance to the establishment of the Liberian nation state.
History also recalls the Patriotism of President Daniel E. Howard, who under actualized threat and siege of German guns in its naval bombardment of Monrovia in April, 1918 refused to capitulate to German demands for the surrender of British, French and American nationals as well as the surrender of the French and German cable stations.
The list of true, dedicated and committed Liberian Patriots is indeed long and inclusive of both sides of the ethno-social divide. There are for example unsung heroes and patriots of Liberia, hardly ever remembered in history such as the Kpelle warrior chief Suah Kpuyu who fought to maintain the territorial integrity of Liberia but who was later executed on charges of treason and rebellion against the Republic; Chiefs Suakoko, Toweh, Juah Nimene, Muanna Kpana Sando and a host of others.
They were, indeed, men and women of integrity and dignity who placed the interests of their people far above their own personal concerns and in turn gained the trust and respect of their respective peoples. Equally long and inclusive of both sides of the ethno-social divide also is the list of poltroons, hustlers, carpetbaggers, renegades of all colors and hue and ideologically bankrupt politicians. It is this latter group of Liberians which have claimed the attention of this newspaper.
From positions of leadership, they have effectively created excruciating and demeaning conditions of existence, virtual poverty traps for most Liberians out of which there appears to be no escape given the current politico-, economic trajectory on which the nation appears to be headed.
If one should ask by what standards of today do we measure Patriotism, our simple reply is the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia which binds us all in a common compact which we are duty bound to uphold, respect, defend and protect.
This is all contained in the solemn oath of office under which the leadership of the nation is sworn into office. Under Articles 31 and 53 of the Constitution, members of Legislature as well as the President and Vice President are to swear to a solemn oath pledging to uphold, protect and defend the Constitution and By-laws of the Republic and to faithfully discharge the duties of such offices.
In other provisions of the Constitution under Chapter II, entitled “General Principles of National Policy”, Article 7 requires the national leadership of the country to manage the national economy and natural resources of the country in such a manner that ensures the maximum participation of Liberian citizens and under conditions of equality in order to advance the general welfare of the Liberian people and the economic development of Liberia.
Likewise, in Article 8, the Constitution also requires the national leadership to “direct its policy towards ensuring for all citizens, without discrimination, opportunities for employment and livelihood under just and humane conditions, and towards promoting safety, health and welfare facilities in employment”.
Last, but perhaps most importantly, in Article 10, the Constitution requires the national leadership to “ensure the publication and dissemination of this Constitution throughout the Republic and the teaching of its principles and provisions in all institutions of learning in Liberia”. This provision is intended to ensure that respect for the Constitution and By-laws of the Republic is maintained always.
By this it implies that love for country (Patriotism) will be fostered and inculcated in the minds of the citizenry, particularly the youths. Today, however, Patriotism has taken on a new meaning. Scores of hustlers and carpetbaggers returning home from their misadventures abroad, proudly beat their chests, falsely proclaiming themselves “Patriots” who have abandoned the comforts of life in America and elsewhere to return to Liberia to “serve their country”.
On closer examination of their claims and their performance records, we find nothing but rascals, scoundrels and con artists. Over the last 12 years, this country has borne witness to the return of many of such “Patriots” who landed plum jobs and accumulated enormous but illegally acquired wealth which they flaunt shamelessly in the faces of an overburdened and hapless people.
From virtually nothing they have become masters and overlords. Sycophancy is their trademark, obsequiousness and greed are also key traits and their love for money, for the good things of life which by dint of their own efforts, they are unable to acquire. What, therefore is the meaning of Patriotism?
Where are our Patriots-just where? We know of the Patriots of yesterday but where are our Patriots of today?