Unlike some of you, I have not been to many countries. In fact, the very few I have seen were through transits. My first travel out of Liberia was the time I attended my cousin’s graduation from Agnes Scott College in Atlanta, Georgia in 2014. But I had to go first through Accra, Ghana, Lagos, Nigeria, New York and finally Atlanta.
My second voyage was in February 2015, and this time it took me through Casablanca, Morocco, Washington, Charlotte, North Carolina and again Atlanta, Georgia. Amazingly, this eye-opener brought me face to face on two separate occasions with a reality check.
While history has it that Liberia was never colonized, the forefathers whose efforts made Liberia to become an independent republic were freed slaves from the United States. The American colonization society (ACS), for some reasons, became the agent for relocation back to Africa.
But as an independent country, our constitution was modeled after the United States; our capital city, Monrovia was named after the fifth president (James Monroe) of the United States of America. The name Liberia was also proposed by an American general (Robert Goodloe Harper), and the city of Harper in Maryland County was named after him as well. Too many telltale signs are there, not to mention our flag, pledge and family names.
To some Liberians, Liberia is a representative of the United States both in theory and practice. Moreover, ever since our independence, many Liberians lived, got educated in the United States of America, went back home, and assumed positions of trust in several elected governments.
As a first time visitor from a developing country, I was amazed by the tangible infrastructures that welcomed me to the United States. Paradoxically, I was tempted to wonder about all the astounding possibilities to borrow from this great civilization to take back home.
Yet, I asked myself why is it impossible for this miracle to be actualized in a small country of 43 thousand square miles, and a population of a little over 3.5m (2008 census results) people – in a country richly endowed with vast natural resources. Ironically, however, most of the Liberian people lack the basic necessities to live a decent life.
In any society where few people have a lot and the majority lacks a meal, spells trouble in my book. The time to rethink our existence is now. Considering the slave masters’ believe that a black man is incapable of self-rule, Liberia became the laboratory to prove that the Liberian people are capable of self-governance, as Liberia became a bastion of hope for all of Africa.
Over a century later, however, we became self-destruct. We now survive on debt waivers, donations, or external good will. Honestly, I want to see Liberia moved past this weakness. I want to see us export a marketable way of life. If we cannot turn water into wine, I would appreciate that we turn our raw materials into finished products and create jobs for our people to earn a living. The need to critically rethink our existence can only be emphasized.
We must build a solid foundation by providing quality education for our youthful population to guarantee a stable future. Mind you, the war took several years away from most young people, if not the entire citizenry. Considering the strategic significance of being the future leaders, deliberate, quality education is the roadmap to a better tomorrow.
While our compatriots in other countries were in schools, most of us were drugged and given guns to fight a war we did not bring on ourselves. Fast forward to post-war Liberia, the young people need an acceleration to come anywhere near our peers in other countries who utilized their time by gaining education to sustain their growth. Are our programs geared for scholarships- seeking-deserving students? Or are the scholarships given based on birthright? Could there be written examinations given to identify the best for such opportunities?
Look at our health sector. The Ebola virus outbreak exposed greatly the weaknesses of the health care system in Liberia. Apart from the lapses in our health sector, the Ebola outbreak also shows the resilience of the Liberian people. With initial reports that we had gone over 21 days with no new case sends a message – a point we missed from the very cessation of the war in 2003.
Amidst all of the odds, we keep observing safety measures put in place by health workers and experts to prevent the spread and to eradicate the EVD in time. Could we have mustered similar courage, skills and leadership in providing the basic social services to jump-start our economy?
Look at how dark Liberia can be? Electricity is a luxury in Liberia today. Can our economy survive in the absence of affordable electricity? For how long can we continue to run generators (public or private)? Definitely, we can achieve all things if we have the will and determination to put Liberia on the elevator on her way up.
Like America, there are other countries with similar or better systems and civilizations. However, America stands out.
America stands out not only for her modern infrastructures and technological advancements; also, she is the symbol of all human migration. America houses the world – people from different countries, colors, sex, you name it.
American democracy is permeating several countries in the world. Think of countries in Africa, Europe and parts of Asia. I also admire the discipline and collective hard work it takes to propel the wheels of their continuous, heterogeneous existence. From the very beginning, one sees that America is indeed an immigrant country.
This country provides protection for those who seek it. It offers itself as a safe haven for the oppressed, Asylum seekers and victims of some of the worst human right violations. Even refugees have all come to this great country to solicit safety or greener pastures.
As a young man, I always heard that America is a land of opportunities for those who aspire for quality education, and those looking for a springboard for personal advancement. I have seen people who rose from some of the worst conditions in their societies, found their way to America and turned into middle class, in a few years. The change in their stature did not come by easily. Hard work and determination are the keys to any human achievement.
Don’t get me wrong. Like many societies, there are homeless people, criminals, and single mothers in the United States. Whether it is from the bottom to top or top to bottom, it is said that humans are the products of their imaginations. Like humans, countries are also the same. What a person becomes in life is based on the choices they make in life. Also, what a country becomes is based on the choices their people make.
America is a melting pot where the “haves and the have-nots” have their destinies in their own hands. America is a country whose good side outweighs its bad side. Who’s looking for the bad side, anyway? By the way, I really feel like going to IHOP!
Emmanuel Flomo-son is a resident of Monrovia, Liberia.