“Blaming the Wrong Victims”: According to Tarty Teh’s Letter to Ambassador George Washington et al
Jonesboro, Georgia – The letter below is the late Tarty Teh’s rebuke, which he did with principled and insightful observation of gravy-seekers in Liberia and the Diaspora. These are some of the issues he dedicated his entire life to:
By Elder Siahyonkron J. K. Nyanseor, Sr.
“P. O. Box 435
Clinton, MD 20735
July 27, 1990
Ambassador George Washington et al
1020 Park Road NW
Washington, DC 20010
Dear Ambassador George Washington et al:
I saw that disgustingly sad letter of appeal you sent to President George Bush dated July 17, 1990, about the current Liberian crisis. Although it afforded me an invaluable insight that I might not have obtained through conventional means of determining collective motives, it remains a most pathetic case of slave-to-master communication I’ve seen.
Based on what I was able to discern from the letter, I would not trust most of you, the signatories, with propagating any truth, however well established. [For the record, the signers of the letter in question are: George Washington, J. Rudolph Johnson, Winston A. Tubman, A. Romeo Horton, George Toukolon, Hilary F. Gbunblee, Eugenia A. Wordsworth-Stephenson, Lawrence Morgan, Abdulai Vandi, and Winifred Massaquoi.] I get the feeling that this was supposed to an aggregate of some of Liberia’s intellectual heavyweights who have some special insight into the emerging crisis, but instead you guts sound like a bunch of confused opportunists who are ready to jump ship after leading your beleaguered captain astray.
And why is it that in three and a half pages of groveling propose of nearly one thousand words you people managed to recite the name of a man called Samuel Doe every half page without stumbling into any reason to mention the name of a man named Charles Taylor? Not even once? Your simplistic absolutism is simply ludicrous: Some people are completely right, others are completely wrong. Needless to say President Doe has done everything wrong, and did so all by himself.
Well, I had gripes during your “happy times.” William Tubman, the uncle of one of the signatories who are seeking to replace what you call “the departed Doe,” ruled Liberia for 27 years and built the longest paved road in Liberia–80 miles long–from the capital to his farm as the biggest infrastructural development of his reign.
Just as interesting is the selective way in which some of you would like to be remembered. Most people remember their most recent assignments more than their previous ones. Not so with Ambassador George Washington. He only remembers being “Chief-of-Staff.” Winston Tubman was equally circumspect. He chose to remember being “Permanent Representative of Liberia to the United Nations” when in fact the position he last occupied was that of Minister of Justice.
A. Romeo Horton strove even harder to avoid being part of the era marking the rise of the African Liberian. He dated his signature (1964-1969) to make sure he was not vulnerable to any charge of having anything to do with the only African-led administration in the history of Liberia. Vandi, Toukolon, and others were added as tokens so that the Americo-Liberian masterminds would yet avoid the perennial charge of native exclusion. J. Rudolph Johnson signed as an unqualified (meaning current, not former) “Minister of Foreign Affairs” for the Doe government. So did Eugenia Stephenson (a.k.a. Eugenia A. Wordsworth-Stephenson), as Ambassador of Liberia to the United States.”
Winston Tubman has more compelling reason for signing on as a former U.N. envoy: because he had taken that position “in happy times”–during the reign of the last of the Americo-Liberian princes. The position he held in the Samuel Doe administration, though patently higher than the U.N. post, fell within the savage range of the first African administration in the history of Liberia. That is why he wants to distance himself from it. But the motive of Ambassador George Washington for listing another post–an earlier one–is not readily discernible. His case is the most curious because he is an African Liberian, despite (or, should I say, because of) his most American name.
No, it is not freedom of speech. You people are political prostitutes. You scrupulously avoided mentioning Charles Taylor by name in a three-page document that purports to lament the destruction of lives by the warring factions. Like any resourceful hooker, you guys imagine a day not far in the future when it may be expedient (the unscrupulous are always driven by expedience) to be in bed with Taylor. And when that question comes up, the answer will be ready-made: “But Charlie, who said I was talking about you?”
But nothing is easy–not even for the prostitute. The latest reports from the battle front render Charles Taylor largely irrelevant as a treat to Doe forces. However, Doe my yet fall victim of the Prince Johnson faction. So you the Ten Opportunists will need a new script that fully contemplates a Prince Johnson victory.
If all the former government officials who signed the document denouncing President Doe are said to be prostitutes, then J. Rudolph Johnson and Eugenia Stephenson are on a higher perfidious plane. For whereas prostitution borders on legality, bigamy and adultery are recognized universally as symbols of moral turpitude. Johnson and Stephenson did not divorce the Doe administration when they openly flirted with and courted another. Why don’t you give up the comfort or cover of your office and stand on your principles, if you have any? I am talking about those of you who are still milking the Doe government for what it’s worth.
Can you imagine James Baker saying about President George Bush what these current officials have said about President Doe? No U.S. government official would last half an hour in office if he said that the president “has proven himself incapable of keeping order or abiding by the constitution.” The question is not whether or not the charges are true, but once you’ve made them, you must separate yourself from the government so If “all of us, …whether native African or descended from American blacks, cherish the America ideal of constitution democracy,” then how come no one has bothered to tell American-descended Charles Taylor? And why is it that the “coup led by Samuel Kanyon Doe appeared to offer a broadening political base”? Are we to construe from this that the base had not been broadened by 19 successive administrations of descendants of American blacks to include Africans?
Of course that would be the correct and inescapable inference. For more than a quarter century, President Tubman did not entertain the possibility of anyone voting against him. By staunchly suppressing any multiparty political dreams, he neutralized the African Liberians’ most potent weapon—their numerical supremacy built into the right to choose and the right to vote. By comparison President Doe is Liberia’s most-voted-against, hence most legitimate, president. Every single segment of the Liberian society had a choice to vote against him. My grandfathers Gbalee Kuhn and Quaye Slopoh Tarty were forbidden by law to vote for President of Liberia, although taxes and forced labor were extracted from them to educate Liberians “descended from America blacks” in Europe and America.
The word “America” may” still carr[y] great moral authority” in Clay-Ashland and Johnsonville, but it hardly means anything in Pallipo. Not that they hate America in Pallipo, but they are too busy being Africans to give undue notice to any other nationality.
One of the cryptic ways in which Americo-Liberian seek to absolve themselves of any responsibility for the current bloodbath in Liberia is the use of such expressions as “tribal animosities,” “tribal,” a great majority of Americo-Liberians tried not to learn any of the many African languages spoken in Liberia; which is why roughly two-fifths of the signers of the mushy appeal to President Bush have scant, if any, knowledge of any of the dialects spoken in Liberia.
The sad thing is that so many African Liberians acted as mere utensils of their Americo-Liberian masters’ whim. A sad commentary–we African Liberians are still vulnerable to Americo-Liberian manipulation, however well-educated we have become.
I sincerely hope to hear from you all.
I am reminded of the profound statement by Dr. Martin Luther King: “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word”.
This brings me to the purpose for which I am writing this commentary to Tarty Teh’s letter addressed to Ambassador George Washington et al. The letter highlights the intellectual dishonesty practiced by some Liberians at home and in the Diaspora. For example, these ‘educated’ African-Liberian Country ‘Boys’ and ‘girls’ as referred to a respected social critic, reminds me of the classic work William Ryan: “Blaming the Victim.” This book was a required text in Social Work (in the 70s) when I was pursuing my undergraduate degree at Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Ryan explains the reason political leaders and their benefactors prefer to put the blame of poverty on its victims, rather than on the inequalities of the political and economic systems.
According to Ryan, the generic formula of “Blaming the Victim” is to justify inequality by finding defects in the victims. “Blaming the Victim” is an ideological process by which a set of ideas and concepts are systematically manipulated with unintended distortions of reality. He stated further that “Blaming the Victim” is not a process of intentional distortion, although it does serve the class interests of those who practice it. On the other hand, Karl Mannheim described it as “collective unconsciousness,” a state of mind rooted in a class-based interest intended to maintain the status quo.
Kru (Klao)elders of Liberia have a parable that says: “Bo bo yon yea cede chen or cede bo,” which means, ‘when a stupid person learns book, his book is stupid. Simply put, his way of thinking becomes contaminated with stupidity.
For example, there is the tendency by some apologists and benefactors of corrupt systems to apportion blame on individuals and groups in the past and today who wish to maintaining the current system against the radical change those with socialist and communist ideologies advocate. In their effort to blame the breakdown of law and order on these individuals or groups, they distort historical facts in their analysis. One such glaring example is a book titled: Liberia and the Civil War, written by Rev. J. Samuel Reeves. This book was written in1992. A passage in the book reads: “Many Liberians affected by the coup have not forgotten the role of Taylor as a leading member of the Union of Liberian Association[s] in the Americas (ULAA). It was this association that agitated vigorously against the Tolbert government in the 70’s and masterminded a demonstration against Dr. Tolbert at the United Nations in New York (similar embarrassment awaits President Johnson-Sirleaf). President Tolbert’s embarrassing encounter came from his own countrymen, when as chairman of the Organization of African Unity (OAU); he was addressing the U.N. General Assembly in New York.”
What I had problems understanding when I read the book is the point/message that Rev. Reeves made or should I say, conveyed to the public. It seems as an indictment of Liberians who protested against their leader with whom they had problems and demonstrated against him for the one-sided policies of his government; especially when he was addressing the U.N. General Assembly as head of the OAU. What better place an aggrieved group of citizens could express their grievances other than the United Nations? It is the World body that deals with such issues. This is the kind of blame shifting that has kept Liberians divided for so long. Is there anything wrong calling ‘a spade, a spade’?
Another aspect of Liberia’s BIG BOOK PEOPLE’s intellectual dishonesty is exhibited by then opposition leader, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
In the article written by J. Yanqui Zazain The Perspective’s March 16, 2006 Edition, entitled: “Tolbert and Doe, Different Assassins, But Same Architect.” In this article, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is quoted to have said:
“Our nation cannot afford to evade justice and protection of human rights throughout… myths, mysteries, and the individualized arrogation of truth will serve no useful purpose; rather, it will reinforce divisions, suspicions, and smoldering anger.”
Like we say in Liberia, “That na all yet!” Check this out!
“…Our boys, full of potential, were forced to be child soldiers, to kill or be killed. Our girls, capable of being anything they could imagine, were made into sex slaves, gang-raped by men with guns, made mothers while still children themselves.”
It is not over yet! Some BIG RUSTY Liberian men messed with young boys, and especially young girls, ranging from 10 to 14 years of age. These young girls are referred to by these BIG RUSTY MEN as “iron tities”. These young girls got the name “iron tities” for the pointed-fullness of their breasts for which they are exploited. The so-called ‘well to do BIG WOMEN’ too, has joined the game in using both young boys and girls as their sex toys. Why shouldn’t the people be VEXED LIKE HELL? IF SOMEONE MESSES WITH YOUR KIDS, YOU WILL NOT GET VEXED? These GOOD FOR NOTHING MEN and WOMEN ABUSE and EXPLOIT young girls and boys who are NOT THEIR CHILDREN! These CHILDREN are from the ranks of the exploited 99% of the population.
Liberia is in a deplorable state and all the 1% elites think about is how to DAMAGE and DESTROY Liberia’s FUTURE – the youth. Yet, there are more pressing issues like the lack of safe drinking water, the lack of sewer systems, the changing weather and environment due to the deforestation policy (started by Charles Taylor and continued by Guyde Bryant); and poor health service delivery system. These are problems with which our leaders should be preoccupied with. Instead, they failed to provide these services and to bring to justice individuals who EAT (steal) the Liberian people’s MONEY with impunity; combined with no prosecution of those who exploit young boys and girls for their sexual pleasures.
Let me share with you an Executive Mansion Release I pulled from my archive. In this release, Unity Party’s (UP) David Korte is quoted to have said in Mrs. Medina Wesseh’s New Dawn (CDC’s Black List Out (Pt.-I). “… It was time that President Sirleaf acted like an African leader for a week to ensure that the CDC does not disturb the peace currently being enjoyed?” Mr.Korte’s remarks took me back to a story that is based on an Executive Mansion Release of December 10, 1982 issued by then Head of State Samuel K. Doe. It reads:
Monrovia, Liberia, December 10, 1982 – Head of State Samuel K. Doe gave security agencies in the country the authority to arrest anyone who indulge in political speeches, remarks or acts, which might affect the stability of the country. An executive Mansion release quoted the Head of State as saying that the decision taken at the early morning meeting of the PRC refers to any individual or group. He explained that once proof was established, anyone arrested for making political remarks would be detained for two years, while those caught outright making unfavorable speeches and pronouncements against government would not be investigated at all because newspapers also have the habit of “politicizing issues,” therefore, any reporter found guilty of misquoting individuals would bear a similar penalty. (Executive Mansion Release – December 10, 1982)
More important, Tarty Teh was a man of many talents: storyteller, prolific writer, social critic and an accomplished letter-writer; who throughout his life was dedicated to addressing social and political ills of society – regardless of who was involved; be it public figure or ordinary people. He did so without discriminating! This is the quality that set him apart from most Liberian Big Book People of our time.
Tarty and Dr. Edward Wilmot Blyden had one thing in common; they shared a firm belief in the ‘distinctiveness and the destiny of Africans in the world’ not as inferior but equal. As the result, both men were constantly criticized by those who seek to destroy African institutions and customs to have them replaced with theirs.
Dedicated to Black Lives Matters!
NOTE: The letter is a transcribed copy; photocopy of the original letter is available upon request from the archive of Siahyonkron J. K. Nyanseor ([email protected]).
Brief Infro About the Author of the Letter: Mr. Tarty Teh was a culture, political, social advocate, and a Freelance Journalist. He wrote for several national and international media on various topics; especially, Africa and Liberia in practically. He is an original member of the Liberian Internet Chat Room that gave birth to Liberian Internet web magazines.
Tarty was born on July 18, 1946 in Pallipo, a village in River Gee County, Liberia, West Africa. He died in Liberia on February 15, 2012 after a protractive illness.
He graduated from Laboratory High School, now Tubman High in Monrovia; and he earned a master’s degree in English and Journalism from the University of Maryland, USA. He served as Liberia’s Minister Counselor at the Liberian Embassy in Washington, DC from the late 70’s to early 1980’s. He returned to Liberia and served as Assistant Minister of Information for Research, and later served as Deputy Maritime Commissioner at the Virginia Office (USA) during the Interim Government of Gyude Bryant.
Tarty Teh epitomizes his true character, a thinker who sought to expose propaganda and denounced rhetoric that could hurt national pride. While his writings were sometimes challenged in other quarters of the society it was equally embraced in other parts and therefore invariably inspired others. His inquisitive approach in probing the conscience of most Liberians cannot be compared to anything but excellence and patriotic; for which, he was affectionately called Geesayfahnnonkon Kloba Bodioh(in Grebo and Klao/Kru Language which means “Leopard has no fear”). (©1991: From Siahyonkron Nyanseor’s Archive).