By: S. Jabaru Carlon, Ph. D.

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
March 10, 2007


In Liberia today, especially since the past four months or so, it has been all but good news; in spite of the many good things the Sirleaf government is arduously trying to achieve. And for some of us connected with that government, one way or another, it is quite disturbing that we only hear from the distance the age-old malicious utterance of “Crucify Him/Her”. As a people coming from over a generation of bad news, it is past time we began to develop some positive attitudes toward the salvaging of our war-torn country from the throes of wanton destruction. We should now try our best to assist the Lady (the President) pull our heads from the muddy hole we have been pushed into during those dark days. Indeed, arising from a centuries-old condition of mal-governance, misfeasance, corruption and miss-management, it is no easy task to find our country even where it is today. Unfortunately, it may seem to some of us that the miracle we had expected is not happening fast enough. In which case we need to stop and ask ourselves: “Where would Liberia be if we were President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf? Would the nation’s state of affairs be any better?” And, my friends, my experience over the past three decades and beyond compels me to respond to the latter question with a resounding NO! And I can say, without any hesitation, that most of the vocal critics now surfacing may turn out to be among the worst actors, if the table were to be turned around in their favor. Honestly speaking, many of us here today, who have experienced happenings in our country over those decades, especially since 1980, may agree with me on this.

At this point, I would like to touch on some more recent, more pertinent issues in our troubled country. Two issues readily come to mind – the erstwhile Snowe legislative debacle, which may or may not have mushroomed into the most recent Knuckles’ sexual demeanor. Although the two individuals have decided to step down, the websites (and our e-mail) are still clogged with articles, some of which deserve commentary. The most disturbing aspect to me is that many of these articles in one way or other are saying, “hang them!”; which in my religious mood of Lent I would interpret to “Crucify Him/Her!” I have added ‘her’ because some writers seem to include Madam President in that hanging. God forbid! That the “Iron Lady” should be counted in such a diabolical category! I have before now refrained from voicing an opinion on either of these issues because the various writers have only chosen to pass judgments on the actors, without giving those of us who lack firsthand facts in these matters, the necessary tools at their disposal to enable us make educated statements on these issues. Also, some of the critics speak/write as if the President were the culprit(s); added to this, some of these critics use all manner of language quite inappropriate for a head of state, an elderly person and/or honorable statesperson. One particular article I read that gave me the pangs like a woman in travail went thus: “Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, How Disgraceful!” And the writer went on to say, among many things: “However, the use of the word ‘regret’ in accepting his [Knuckles’] resignation is disgraceful and despicable.” (Emphasis added.)

Now, for Heaven’s sake, what is disgraceful and/or despicable of a President, to tell his/her country folk, “…I accepted today, with regrets, the resignation of my Acting Chief of Staff, Minister Willis Knuckles.”, even if the Minister had committed a capital offense? In further regard for “appropriateness, I recall a high school English teacher of mine who taught my class in the use of appropriate language: i.e., that one must use the right word or term to suit a given or proper instance. In which case it is not appropriate or fitting for one to use playground language (or even conversational language) in writing a term paper, research paper or technical piece of work. Similarly, I think it inappropriate for one to address a head of state, an elderly person or an honorable person, using the same terms (or language) one uses in talking to or about one’s peer or colleague. The use of such inappropriate language in describing a head of state (President as in the case supra) or an elderly person, only lays bare one’s banality and lack of depth of one’s own learning and/or mother wit.

I hope it is by now clear that I plan to steer clear of passing judgment on either Mr. Snowe or Mr. Knuckles; as I do not have enough facts at hand to do so. For instance, I have not seen what could be prima facie material (the sex pictures) that others have seen on the internet. Then, too, I am not privy to much of the various incidents that led to the Snowe saga. I can vouch to say, however, that Mr. Knuckles should have never left himself so vulnerable to so-called blackmail, given his high position in government and society; and, indeed, given the bona fide family man I know him to be. I must also point out that Mr. Snowe, by willy-nilly deciding to give up such an honorable position as Speaker of the House of Representatives, had taken the moral high ground in the matter. I particularly admire and respect his assertion that “…political grandstanding and intellectual arrogance should never ever [sic] cause any public servant to lose sight of the greater interest of the Liberian people…” And some of us may argue that Mr. Snowe is simply playing with words here; that he himself does not believe in these words. But to me that is besides the point. For I see those words as the core message that should resonate with all and every Liberian in sworn positions of power and responsibility. Just imagine, others in Mr. Snowe’s position could have taken recourse to violent means in order to stay in power; yes, and we have seen a lot of this in the past two decades. But I think we all must now say “enough is enough!” No more violence, no more blood shed; our poor little country has had its full share of bad blood, hatred and violence of all kind for the rest of the millennium! We must now collectively, honestly, patiently and in good faith work hard, within the framework of the Sirleaf government, toward salvaging our country which has bled for so long!

Meanwhile, I would like to hasten and tell those who may be out to “crucify me” for perceived siding with those in government and elsewhere, who are leaned toward stifling or muzzling free speech in our newfound democracy to hold it. Far from it! My sole intention here is to admonish all of us – in a true African traditional context – to be careful and cautious how we criticize our leaders of government and society. I have mentioned the attitude of appropriateness supra. In this regard I recall a parable from our non-literate fathers: namely, that one does not hit a town animal with the same vim and vigor, as one does a bush animal. For the latter is wild, while the former is tamed; and may indeed, be our neighbor, as a dog or cat. Undemocratic? Maybe! But what is democracy? Is it a concept that can be transplanted from one society, one culture to another without some modification and/or adjustment? I don’t think so. As I see it, Democracy, like education (Western education, that is) cannot be imported or transplanted from one culture (from one society) to another without relevant modifications, adjustments or readjustments, for it to be instituted successfully. It is not like the clothes we wear, some of the foods we eat or the drugs we take. Western democracy, therefore, my fellow compatriots and friends, must undergo modifications in some respects, to suit our African cultures and societies. And I submit, that one such aspect for us in Liberia should be that we remain eternally respectful of our leaders and elders in government and society. Mind you, I am not suggesting in the least that we not disagree with them; rather, that we do so, if needs be, with respect and appropriate dignity for their place in government and society. For after all, it is we who have voted them into office (especially as in the case of the President), through the democratic process; it is we have put them in positions of authority and power over us, through that process. And until, or unless we vote again, through the same process, to put them out for just cause in line with the national constitution, we must give them the respect due them. And, please folks, let’s spare each other – do not “Crucify Him/Her!” Thus far I rest my case.

© 2007 by The Perspective

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