25 August 2005

Liberia: Flag Day Means More


YESTERDAY, MILLIONS OF Liberians and foreign residents throughout the country observed and celebrated August 24, 2005 as National Flag Day. Devotion to the day was done in two-folds. As they saw fit, some observed the day in solemnity and cogitation while others celebrated it in divergence - in pageantry and/or whimsicality. Overall, the day was lackluster and passed as if it had no national significance.

WE RECALL ON this day, some years back, the government made sure that giant national emblems or flags were flown on major public buildings throughout the country. Besides, the ministries of Defense and Education organized joint programs consisting of parades and indoor programs during which the significance of the day was highlighted to imbue patriotism into the people of the nation, particularly the youth. The outdoor programs were characterized by the hoisting of giant emblems at the Barclay Training Center in Monrovia and other major public squares throughout the country where parading youths and members of the armed forces conducted march passes to honor the national emblem and to learn the skills of national guard duties.

WHILE WE ARE sort of nostalgic about those colorful parades and the patriotism they inspired, we are worried most about the fast disappearing values that are associated with the National Emblem. We are told in our elementary training that the star in the upper left hand corner of the National Emblem is a reminder that Liberia is the only independent Negro republic in the then 'dark Continent of Africa'; the blue field depicting dark. The eleven stripes represent the eleven signers of the Declaration of Independence. The white stripes signify purity of purpose and intentions of nationhood while the red stripes signify valor - the commitment to the defense of the sovereignty, growth, and development of this "Glorious Land of Liberty" for the benefit of all Liberians.

NO DOUBT THE setting aside of August 24, 2005 as a National Holiday is intended to keep the significance of these national symbols fresh in the minds of succeeding generations of Liberians so that the torch of nationhood build on patriotism could be kept alive and up and running. Unfortunately years in and years out, particularly in the last few years as it were yesterday, the nation glossed over the day as though it has no significance. Where anyone or group care, they simply recall the designers and recite what the symbols in the emblem signify. In a nutshell, we celebrate Flag Day without really giving or seen to be giving befitting thoughts to what was intended by the designers, all of whom were Liberian mothers.

WE CELEBRATED A national day that reminded us that as we raise the National Emblem each day, we must dedicate ourselves to the social contract of remaining pure and chaste in our national life by being honest, transparent, and accountable to the nation and its people. We celebrated a day that says that we must be brave to defend the territorial integrity of our nation and not to allow, for selfish reasons, foreigners to take it over and pose as citizens nor allow fly-by-night investors rip our economy for peanuts. We celebrated a national day as we had always done in the past that says we are the oldest independent country amongst more than 50 states in Africa and therefore should be experienced in the art of nation building at every stage of development including the economy, politics, social security, and national stability. Yes, we celebrated a day as we had always done with troubling indifference in the past that says that we should not be reaching out for helping hands in the 21st Century more than a century and half after independence.

AND YET GOOD governance, as defined in the purity of the flag, continues to elude us. We remain brave in executing plans and activities that stifle the growth and development of this nation and annihilate the population, but little thought is given to the sort of bravery that confronts those things that threaten the sovereignty of this nation. We preach commitment to nation building but stubbornly clench to the Machiavellian illusion that that commitment is only possible when we are in the Executive Mansion as head of state and that otherwise, this nation is as good as devastated in purposeless warfare. So 22 of us are running the rat race to the Executive Mansion, thanks to the National Elections Commission that cut the number from 50 by raising the stakes. This unfortunate national illusion must be brought to an end to pave the way for appeal to reality and progress.

WE THINK IT is high time we return to the values embellished in our national symbols. There is no telling that unless we do that, unless we return to the true meaning of our National Emblem: valor, purity, and the wisdom that comes with age, this nation will remain a 'ragged old man' of Africa. It must be realized that Flay Day is more than a day on which we parade or choose not to parade as our consciences dictate and give empty speeches as a tradition; it is a day for reflection, change of characters, and transformation of national strategy.

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