Liberia: Why “little America” has run its course


Liberia: Why “little America” has run its course

As the Ebola crisis continues to wreak havoc, Aaron C. Sleh examines Liberia’s disposition and perpetual love for “Americanisation” and asks: Why is the dominant culture and psychology in Liberia so Afrophobic? Why is there so much self-loathing among many Liberians about their African identity and heritage, even in times of crisis? His conclusion is that it’s about time his countrymen stopped fantasising about being a “little America” in Africa, if the country is to move forward.

Since its “founding”, Liberia has tried so pathetically to copy America. Sadly, we are not even a good copy, merely a caricature of America. It is as if the Liberian copy of America was run on a defective machine.

Now this Liberia Project has run its course. The ongoing Ebola outbreak and our limp response to it have sounded the death knell. The epidemic has exposed not only the weaknesses in our health systems, but also gross failures of leadership, almost criminal dysfunctions in governance, the near absence of social capital and a virtual breakdown of the social consensus.

The project that began in 1822 as the Commonwealth of Liberia and became the Republic of Liberia in 1847 has gone as far as it can go in terms of delivering human development and advancement. Our identity is conflicted, our self-image is poor and so we hate ourselves. This is why some steal money meant to pay doctors and nurses, and fail to provide ambulances for hospitals and clinics, and leave a whole nation at the mercy of the world’s pity when Ebola is wreaking havoc among its citizens.

One problem with Liberia has been that as long as it was African, it was to be disdained. Even better if you voiced your disdain in an American accent

There is a need for Liberians to re-imagine a new nation, reconstitute a new state based on new institutions and practices – and maybe even take a new name. The alternative is to remain stuck with what we now have: this caricature of a state still fantasising about being a “little America” in Africa. Who do we think we are fooling with all this self-delusion?

Why do I say so? To begin with, if America were a god and its way of life a religion, the Liberian nation would have made up its priesthood. Probably no other people worship America and things American as much as Liberians do.

Take our flag. Put it in the hands of flame-bearing jihadists, and an unsuspecting US patriot would probably risk his life to retrieve it, mistaking it for America’s flag. Not only is our flag red, white and blue like the American stars and stripes, but it is itself a “star and stripes”, with the same design as the American original.

The main difference is that where the Americans have several stars, we have a single one, which is why we call our flag the Lone Star and our country the Lone Star nation. But even this nickname is borrowed from America. The Lone Star State is the nickname of the US state of Texas.

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