The review of our national symbols must be now

By Kai Toteh/ | February 17, 2014

First, the launching of national review project must be commended. The review of our national symbols and places and streets was a major concern of Liberians before and after the 1980 revolution.  Unfortunately, the momentum died after those who were at the vanguard of the campaign took state power. In 2007, I wrote an article, titled, “The Liberian Flag and Allegiance, Foreign and Clever Plagiarism-A Critical look.”  Before the launching of the national review project, I republished the article so as to remind our leaders. It was intended to remind our leaders that our symbols, particularly the flag and its allegiance don’t represent us. In that article, I questioned the significance of our national symbol, particularly the flag and the pledge of allegiance. Because of the launching of the National Symbol Review Project, I am republishing this article for the benefit of those who never had the chance to read it, and to let those in charge of the National Symbol Review Project know that Liberians want result, not wait and see.

Below is the article:
Many Liberian historians and scholars continue to argue about who were present on the flag committee and who were not present. Others are arguing about the description of the flag. The fact of the matter is, [the] Liberian flag is foreign and is a complete plagiarism, which is the result of lack of ingenuity on the part of the designers and their facilitators. Any argument without advancing suggestions for a solution, leads us to nowhere. It has been a century and half now since Susana Lewis and others committed this clever plagiarism. Some people in the world would think that our failure to revisit the designs of our flag and the [pledge of] allegiance reduces us to nothing but a bunch of unintelligent people.   

A flag is a symbolic expression and national identity of a people in a given society. A country’s flag is designed from some important historical influences and landmarks such as the declaration of independence, the country’s geography, and the people and what they stand for. [The] Liberian flag is one of the few controversial national symbols on the African continent.

The Liberian national flag is called “LONE STAR.” The eleven horizontal stripes represent the eleven signers of the declaration of independence and the constitution of the Republic of Liberia; the blue field symbolizes the continent of Africa; the pointed white star depicts Liberia as the first “independent republic” on the continent of Africa; the red color designates “valor”; the white, “purity,” and the blue, “fidelity”. Although these representations are uniquely Liberian, according to some historians, some political analysts and historians on the contrary, think Liberian flag is a replica of “Old Glory.”

The Liberian flag, to be frank, is a copy of the American flag, suggesting that the designers of the flag lacked vision and creativity. The flag has no description of our geography, except the blue field, which the designers referred to as “continent of Africa.” This is a complete mockery and demonstrates still, another twist of history.

The blue color in the Liberian flag has no symbolic significance to Africa as suggested by the designers and those who gave these descriptions. African flags are dominantly green and yellow/gold, signifying African wealth. The representation of the five pointed white star could make sense, but the color otherwise suggests the 51st state of the United States of America, or is a self-governing unincorporated territory of the United States like Puerto-Rico. In fact, in the United States, Liberian flag is not attractive; rather it looks like another U.S. territory somewhere in the world.

Second act of plagiarism
On the pledge of allegiance to the flag, Liberia copied verbatim from the U.S. pledge of allegiance.  Dr. Guanue said in an interview with FPA, “We have not composed our own pledge of allegiance. It’s the U.S. pledge that we copied and inserted the word Liberia in place of the United States.”

The U.S. pledge of allegiance reads: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Liberian pledge of allegiance: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of Liberia and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Liberians have long been comfortable with these unauthorized or unacceptable standards of our culture and social organization. When the 1980 revolution took place, Liberian politicians and historians moved quickly to sanction the changing of names of streets and buildings, and amending the constitution to the disadvantage of the Liberian people, and in favor of the military regime without much being said of the most noticeable acts of plagiarism of our flag and its allegiance. Even the constitution was a plagiarism, though the plagiarism was immaterial, because the constitution was invisible.

The so-called elite, the ruling class, the political architects, and even the lower class have all been riding in the same boat when it comes to pledging blind loyalty to America. This derived from the principles on which Liberia was founded; which say that the basic way in which we can succeed, is to be submissive and dare not be independent of America; and we must be manipulated; our government and political organizations’ actions must be controlled by the United States. 

A number of countries in Africa have made significant changes in their histories. The Democratic Republic of Congo was Zaire. Burkina Faso was Upper Volta; her flag has changed as well; Zimbabwe was Rhodesia with its flag changed; Republic of Benin was Dahomey; and the list goes on.

These countries bravely made these changes to reflect their identities and prides. For them, the right to self-government without interference from outside is the definition of freedom. Despite our unflinching loyalty to the U.S., it was the last country to send troops after France and Britain reminded them of our long loyalty to them and forcibly pulled them from their shell. Symptom of malaria discovered on one marine led U.S. troops to pull out as quickly as possible. 

A correspondent at the ceremony marking the unfurling of a new flag for the new Republic described it this way: “During the ceremony of presenting the flag, many eyes were suffused with tears. And indeed, who that remembered the past could forbear to weep? Who that looked back to America and remembered what he saw and felt there, could be otherwise than agitated.” Yet, we continue to fly a copyrighted flag under the impression that it’s not wrong to carry American flag, because we are a small America in Africa. This is unrealizable hope or fantasy that will haunt us forever, unless we change our sense of direction. Our posterity will be smart and brave, and they will question us in our old age and in our graves.