By Mwalimu-Koh M. Blonkanjay Jackson (MsED, EdM) Scholar, Author/Education Engineer
Simply Thinking Thoughts
In my thinking thoughts, I realized it would soon be August 24 and Liberians would be celebrating National Flag Day. I noted that this nation usually observes its Independence Day (July) before the Flag Day (August) making it to appear like the independence was declared before Madam Susannah Lewis and the six ladies completed the knitting of the revere Lone Star banner. Whatever was the case, in spite of the events which have charted the history of this nation, whether embattled by incidents, engulfed by civil wars and belligerence, or thriving peaceably on politically charged turf, when others wavered to be patriotic, the Liberian Lone Star Banner always had the audacity to still be the identity of the nation state.
In reminisce, during our days as youths in Sinkor, Monrovia, we had a peculiar peer and mentor of our age group referred to as Gbagbatee Moses (GM). Although GM lived with both parents and had valuable opportunities, he chose to be mischievous. He was frequently suspended from school; made passes at his friends’ girlfriends; lied about almost everything and stole from people; always involved in fights; cheated in nearly everything; disrespectful to acceptable folkways, norms and mores.
Nonetheless, in spite of his unpleasant character, we always wished to be in GM’s company because he was our utmost entertainer and movie cinema since our parents did not allow us to “go to the show” except on Christmas Day, Flag day or 26 Day. Gbagbatee Moses could go to Broad Street and attend Rivoli Cinema, Sheila Cinema, Gabriel Cinema or Roxy at any time not caring about punishment he would receive later. After receiving his punishment from his father, he would gather us to narrate and display the actions, and personify the heroes and bad men in those movies: Sabu Break Bay, 14-10, Wang-Yu, Bloody Fist, Bruce Lee, Silver Fox, and Water Front Main Bad man, etc. As Gbagbatee Moses displayed, we were all ears and eyes, and sporadically bursting out into applauses with sparkles on our faces, as if we were in a real movie cinema. Wow, what a pleasant experience to be in the company of the mischievous gronna boy, Gbagbatee Moses!
While we welcomed Gbagbatee’s company, his father frequently beat him up, kicked him out of the house, regretting and asking God why he was chosen to father such a nuisance of a son; in spite of his father’s regrets, Gbagbatee’s mother still had the audacity be his mother. Unfortunately, when Gbagbatee Moses died from an armed robbery incident, his father was ashamed and reluctant to write a eulogy but wept secretly; his mother on the other hand, had the audacity to read a eulogy in Gbagbatee’s honor and still call herself Gbagbatee Moses’ mother.
Audacious Lone Star Banner
Fellow Liberians, there has been instances in the history of this nation when it was hard for one to identify as Liberian or Liberian dialect speaker. In many of those instances it required real audacity or bravery to declare being a Liberian. From the time President E. J. Roye allegedly tried to abscond and got drowned, up to the time of the alleged “Plot to kill President Tubman that failed”, the Lone Star banner has always had the audacity to still be the flag of Liberia.
When Sergeant Samuel K. Doe’s PRC executed 13 government officials in 1980 and their lifeless corpses left hanging for the whole world to see, wasn’t it scary for one to identify as a Congo or Americo-Liberian? Yet the Lone star banner audaciously remained the Flag of Liberia; When General Prince Y. Johnson captured and slaughtered President Samuel K. Doe with a live video recording, wasn’t that difficult to identify oneself as a son of Nimba or a Liberian?
When the 14-year civil war marked by cannibalism, maiming, and ethnic cleansing set in, wasn’t it difficult to identify with such un-Liberian situations? Yet our flag still waved audaciously. When Dr. Amos Sawyer was president of the interim government of national unity (IGNU), and Charles Taylor president of the national patriotic assembly government (NPRAG) concomitantly, of course it was difficult to say which Liberia one belonged to, but the Lone Star banner still remained “the” flag of Liberia.
Now, today we are struggling to decipher the intricate messages or metaphors coming from politicians as Liberians. Liberians are engaged in “rock chunking” politics, increased raping of children and human trafficking, “AK-47 instead of rice” unprecedented impeachment of veteran lawyers, critical liquor talks, physical attacks of oppositions, illegal printing of 15 billion, unorthodox expending of 24 million. Amidst all of these events, one would be ashamed all this unfolding in our once peaceful Liberia, but the Lone Star still remains audacious to stand as the flag of Liberia.
In this messy state of Liberian education, isn’t a Liberian flag still floating over the doggone embattled Ministry of Education? God have mercy.
Eulogizing Gbagbatee Liberia
Fellow compatriots, Liberia is like the late Gbagbatee Moses whose eulogy his mother had to be audacious or brave enough to read. A eulogy is a spoken or written tribute: a speech or piece of writing that praises somebody or something very highly, especially a tribute to somebody who has recently died. For instance, a eulogy can be written for a country whose population continues to suffer from economic hardship, social injustice, and regimented freedom of speech, nepotism, rampant corruption, mediocrity and high places, and abuse of public office.
Before my “thinking thoughts” is misconstrued, let me quickly declare that Liberia has not died and needing a eulogy, but the ideals that goaded the founding fathers to establish the nation state, which the Lone Star banner represents, are suffocating. The founding fathers did not envisage the alleged rampant corruption we are experiencing today; neither the ineptitude and massive mediocrity nor the system of demerits that prevails; they did not envisage a country of lawless arrogant men who are not even patient to obey a simple traffic signal. Did you ever dream Liberians would practice cannibalism, or cutting of brothers’ ears and body parts as they cry for mercy, and after doing so, be favored for high government offices? God forbid.
To those ends, since in spite of the death of virtue and values in a gbagbatee Liberia, the Lone Star Banner still waves, we must write a eulogy praising her for her audacity or bravery to still remain our common identity while lamenting.
Eulogies instead of pomp and pageantry
Back in the day, Flag Day was marked by elaborate parades by schools around the country followed by indoor programs. I remember in Rivercess County how each Flag Day our khaki suits would be soaking wet as we paraded before the Cestos City Hall to give our “eyes right” salutes to either be booed or applauded. In Monrovia the confusion was whether CWA or Tubman High would lead. CWA usually claimed she was founded before Tubman High and so she should lead the parade. The parade started only when Colonel J. Emmanuel Pepple (RIP) ruled that our Tubman High should lead because it was the foremost government school. Wow, the pomp and pageantry for some of us was that it was only on Flag Day that we came face to face with our little sweet hearts who had all along been only pen pals. If you were lucky to get at least a hug or a kiss before she ran back home like a little Cinderella, you would boast about it to your friends, “Bah, my Flag Day was super!”
Fellow Liberians, I submit that instead of the traditional pomp and pageantry that usually mark Flag Day celebrations, Liberians should write eulogies on this Flag Day. Our eulogies do not only have to be lamentations but also songs of praises; songs of praises not for a state whose folkways, norms and mores have demised; a state where corruption, bigotry, hate, deceit, mediocrity and ineptitude in high places prevails; a state where even motorcycles have sirens; a state with useless bunch of mavericks and toot tooters; a state the Lone Star banner has the audacity to be our flag in spite of our deficiencies.
Please permit me to leave you with this powerful act of audacity. In 1901, at the age of 19, Edwin James Barclay who later became the 18th President of the Republic of Liberia wrote a patriotic song; one that is pregnant with passion and audacity, “The Lone Star Forever”.
Barclay noted that our banner did not waiver in strife, troubling times, lightning nor thunder, but audaciously ventured to identify with the nation state; Our banner did not beg the sun to lend its glory but rather took custody of it; Having made her presence felt, our banner proclaimed to the world without equivocation that she had not come as a visitor but had come as a banner to stay as a symbol for this country and stayed, she has; President Barclay also left us a charge to keep and a God to glorify when he asserted, “Desert it, no never! Uphold it, forever! O shout for the Lone Star banner, All hail”
When Freedom raised her glowing form
On Montserrado’s verdant height,
She set within the dome of night,
‘Midst lowering skies and thunder-storm,
The star of Liberty!
And seizing from the waking morn
Its burnished shield of golden flame,
She lifted it in her proud name
And roused a nation long forlorn
To nobler destiny!
The Lone Star forever!
The Lone Star forever!
O long may it float o’er land and o’er sea!
Desert it no never!
Uphold it forever!
O shout for the lone-starred banner!
Then speeding in her course along
The broad Atlantic’s golden strand,
She woke rever’brant through the land
A nation’s loud triumphant song,
The song of Liberty!
Then forward sons of Freedom, march!
Defend the sacred heritage!
The nation’s call from age to age
Where’er it sounds ‘neath heaven’s arch,
Wherever foes assail,
Be ever ready to obey
‘Gainst treason and rebellion’s front,
‘Gainst foul aggression. In the brunt
Of battle lay the hero’s way!
All hail, Lone Star! All hail!
Now fellow Liberians as we celebrate Flag day 2020, let us it with a deep reflection of the status. Let us, instead of celebrating with the usual pomp and pageantry, instead construct eulogies; as you eulogize this Flag Day, may you not desert the ideals for which the Lone Star banner stands but uphold them; having done so, may the Lord bless and keep our country, may he make his countenance to shine upon her, may He be gracious unto our country and give us peace, economic and political stability, and give us joy, In Jesus name.
I am simply thinking thoughts.
About the author
The Rivercess Man, Mwalimu-Koh Blonkanjay Jackson is a triple Ivy League product, and a Jesuit protégé; Having completed his studies at Harvard, Saint Joseph’s and Yale, Mwalimu-Koh Jackson returned to Liberia, served the GOL for four years, and returned to private practice as an Education Engineer. He can be reached at 0886681315.