Tuesday, November 08, 2005

A Fair Chance

Every time I say I’ve decided to vote for Ellen in the run-off, my friends laugh at me—sometimes quite hysterically, bless their little hearts. But really, since during the entire Elections campaign I never once heard what Weah had to say, I thought it was only fair to give him some consideration before making a final choice. So – three times in the last two weeks, I found myself traipsing over to the Congress for Democratic Change headquarters dressed casually in jeans and a plain shirt so that I would fit in with the unpretentious crowd.

It’s an impressive place, CDC, compared to some of the other party headquarters we’ve seen around here. I had been there once before, on the day George Weah’s Million Man March left me open-mouthed with awe and certain that he would win. The quarters consist of a large two-story building and a huge round raised platform topped by a conical roof—both set way back from the busy Tubman Boulevard in a yard several acres big. I went now, wanting to sit under that big palaver hut-like structure and hear what it was people had gathered there to hear so often before the October 11th elections that Weah won with 28% of the vote. But I guess I picked the wrong days or the wrong times: twice there were children dancing to quiet African rhythms played on a radio, and once there was an excellent band playing as a man sang in a dialect I didn’t understand, while two teenage girls danced and jiggled their butts—and just their butts—for the crowd. I had expected consciousness-raising and strategic planning for the first 100 days after inauguration. I’m sure they had it and I missed it, but go ahead people: laugh at me.

Walking around the yard during my visits there, I did meet a number of nice people. Among them: Theresa, who said she was there so that the children of uneducated people could have a better future (and who made me admit that I didn’t see any unruly behavior among the young people gathered there); Julia from the medical team who said she enjoyed talking to me because my (too-American) accent reminded her of her daughter who lives in Michigan; and Emmanuel, a young man who was a “trainee’ in a program I once helped run at Boys Town for street children and former child soldiers. Most of the people I met gave me dreamy-eyed spiels, some of which were alarmingly naïve and showed a lack of knowledge about politics and a dangerous misunderstanding of what Weah’s role and responsibilities will be if he becomes President. (No, life is not suddenly going to become a bed of roses, and Weah will not be your personal savior!)

In the end, my experiences at CDC headquarters are not what led to my final decision. It was taking the time to listen to Ambassador Weah himself, on a radio program, and realizing that he, too, has insufficient knowledge about politics and about what his role and responsibilities will be if elected. George Weah is a good man, and I will never forget that during the civil war, as we sought refuge in foreign lands, he was our one source of pride. I think I gave him a fair chance, but tomorrow I am voting so that all of Liberia's children will have a better future and a well-run country.

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