By Moses Blonkanjay Jackson (MsEd, EdM)
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 before the Flag Day making it to appear like the independence was declared before Madam Susannah Lewis and the six ladies completed the knitting of the revere banner. Whatever was the case, in spite of the events which have charted the history of this nation, whether embattled by incidents or thriving peaceably, when others waivered to be patriotic, the Liberian Lone Star Banner always had the audacity to still be the identity of the nation state.
During our days as youths in Sinkor, Monrovia, we had a peculiar mentor referred to as Gbagbatee Joseph (GB). Although GB lived with both parents and had valuable opportunities, he was mischievous; frequently suspended from school; made passes at his friends’ girlfriends; lied about almost everything and stole from people; always involved in fights; cheating; disrespectful to acceptable folkways, norms and mores.
Nonetheless, in spite of his unpleasant character, we always wished to be in GB’s company because he was our movie cinema since our parents did not allow us to “go to the show” except on Christmas Day or 26 Day. GB could go at anytime. 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 and Silver Fox, etc. As GB 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 an experience.
While we welcomed GB’s company, his father frequently kicked him out of the house, regretting and asking God why he was chosen to father such a nuisance son; however, GB’s mother would appeal to her husband to bring him back home with the audacity to still be his mother. Unfortunately, when Gbagbatee Joseph died from a robbery incident, his father was ashamed and reluctant to write a eulogy but instead wept secretly, but his mother instead had the audacity to read a eulogy in GB’s honor and still call herself Gbagbatee Joseph’s 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 tried to abscond and got drowned, up to the time of the “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 Liberian? Yet the Lone star banner audaciously remained the Flag of Liberia; 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 as we struggle to decipher the intricate messages trickling from the Global Witness–Sable Mining corruption case, and the indictment of House Speaker Tyler and Senator Varney Sherman, as the House of representatives falls apart into factions, the Lone Star banner has the audacity to still be standing on their office desks as the flag that gives them authority. In this messy state of Liberian education, isn’t a Liberian flag still floating over the embattled Ministry of Education?
Eulogizing Gbagbatee Liberia
Fellow compatriots, Liberia is like the late Gbagbatee Joseph 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 high, 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 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 spurred the founding fathers to establish the nation state, which the Lone Star banner represents, are suffocating. The founding fathers did not envisage the rampant corruption we are experiencing; neither the 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 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 how each Flag Day our khaki suits would be soaking wet as we paraded before the 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!”
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, but for the audacity the Lone Star banner has exhibited by still being 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, “...she set within the doom of night, midst low’ring skies and thunderstorms the star of liberty…”
Our banner did not beg the sun to lend its glory but rather took custody of it “…And seizing from the waking morn, its burnished shield of golden flames. She lifted in her proud name and raised a people long forlorn to noble destiny…”
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, “The Lone Star forever! The Lone Star forever! O long may it float over land and over sea.”
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”
Now fellow Liberian 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 us, may He be gracious unto our us and give us peace, economic and political stability, and give us joy, In Jesus name.
I am simply thinking thoughts
The Rivercess Man, Moses Blonkanjay Jackson (The Mwalimu-Mku) is a triple Ivy League product, and a Jesuit protégé; Mr. Jackson is a Yale University Mathematics Curriculum Fellow, and a University of Pennsylvania Physics Curriculum Fellow. Mr. Jackson holds a Master of Education degree from Harvard University and a Master of Education with Secondary Mathematics concentration from Saint Joseph’s University.
The Harvard trained education scholar, Blonkanjay Jackson, having diligently served the Government of Liberia, for four years from 2011 to 2015, as Consultant, and Assistant Minister for Teacher Education, was dismissed.