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Journey Through Samaria

By Dennis Jah
Two days to Run-off Elections

Years ago at some point in our history, we Liberians found ourselves at a point where it was so wrong to be us. Speaking our own native tongues as a Grebo, Gbandi, Mano, etc was considered uncivilized or "country." Even when we mustered the courage to speak the English we were taught in school and at home, at times we were still mocked as either speaking Bassa English, Lorma tongue, having a Gio accent, etc. These were grounds for much jeering and down classing. Our birth names were also considered affront to our Liberian civility. In our desperate attempt to "be civilized" we tweaked or changed those names altogether. The gap between the ruling elites and under-privileged natives widened. It therefore became incumbent upon us to make effort to graduate from the undesirable class of indigenous or ethnic Liberian, or should I say that was logical to do.

What remained an obvious mark of belonging to a tribe was identifying with a tribe in ways like speaking that language, taking on purely native names, or going to tribal gatherings. Even if you had a pure native name, your graduation [from uncivilization] was perfected by the way you erected and reinforced the wall between you and your "uncivilized" tribesmen or women. Serious questions were raised about the education and civilization of a Grebo man who played the "tugba" and danced "torklor" or about a Kpelle parent who allowed his son to go to the traditional Poro society. These tribal identifications were not well desirable, yuck!

Like the Samaritans who the Jews had under classed, it was painful to be ourselves in our own home. In Jesus' times, Jewish trekkers did not mind the extra time and mileage to bypass Samaria in their desperate effort to stay away from them. Not one Jew will ever dream about mingling with a Samaritan. It was therefore baffling and upsetting to his disciples that Jesus had to break that norm by journeying through the lands of the down-trodden and subjugated people of Samaria. Maybe today Sunday, November 06, 2005, we can begin making that journey through the villages and shacks of the down casts, hoodlums, street peddlers, and underprivileged Liberians.

During these electioneering days, tribalism has NOT taken a different meaning but a brand new form and shape. It has been thrown around to match its original Liberian meaning. This is why there is much condemnation about people voting "on tribal lines." If anyone following these elections, may not find it strange or traumatic to notice how the airwaves are filled with the pronouncement or allusion that it is okay for an Americo Liberian to vote an Americo-Liberian/Congo but at the same time unhealthy for democracy and the new Liberia if a Kru man casts his ballot in favor of another Kru person or Bassa for Bassa. It is also politically correct for an upper class to canvass for another upper class person to become president but stupid and backward for a slum dweller to prefer another slum dweller for the presidency. These individuals ignore the proximity theory just to match prior disdain about being tribal or "uncivilized." They may be right, just maybe, since Americo-Liberian/Congo is not considered a tribe and therefore stand to benefit from any native-orchestrated or perceived rivalry.

Whatever way we may choose to view the election runoff scheduled for November 8, 2005, we don't see a clear line dividing the two groups that support either side. But what can be seen is we find bulk of the upper class and elites on one side and on the other side, we see many who have suffered the most in the economic, social, and political disparities that existed in the country. The latter represents the Samaria of Liberia that the privileged have avoided for so long. Those are the people that are seldom listened to no matter how they shout or they are just misunderstood. Unless you make a journey through their lands, you may like most well-to-do not know what they are feeling. Behind your curtain, you may think you are correct by interpreting their actions as either stupid or backward. It does not bewilder me that the overwhelming support for George Weah, a political underdog and novice in our eyes is considered tribalistic, the other way they defined 'un-civilization.'

This misunderstanding or ignorance is understandable because such a sprint from the slum to power and wealth is out of the ordinary. We are not used to it, period. Some one is missing some steps here because the trip to the Executive Mansion does not go from Clara Town through Antoinette Tubman Stadium brushing near Wells Hairston High School. Unless we make the trip with Jesus, bury our resentments, lower our high shoulders a little bit, and deviate from the customary course, then reluctantly pass through Samaria, we may miss out on a lot of things. The Samaritans may remain unsaved and the Disciples may fail in their mission to take the gospel to ALL parts of the World.

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