Wednesday, January 26, 2022

‘A FEW GOOD MEN’

A friend who used to feed his spirit with the bounteous wisdom contained in the Gaither Homecoming Series introduced me to the series for musical appreciation. After a few ‘good buys’ in the form of albums, I decided that with the series, you can just get into a buying frenzy and not go wrong. Several of the albums in that series have a piece entitled ‘A Few Good Men’.

In part, it goes:

What this dying world could use is a willing Man of God
Who dares to go against the grain and works without applause;
A man who’ll raise the shield of Faith, protecting what is pure;
Whose love is tough and gentle; a man whose word is sure.
Men full of Compassion, who Laugh and Love and Cry-
Men who’ll face Eternity and aren’t afraid to die-
Men who’ll fight for Freedom and Honor once again-
God needs a Few Good Men.

For most Americans, it was just another Gospel tune until the Gaither Vocal Band rendered it to a fitting audience in the aftermath of 9/11. On parade were serving and retired military officers and fire-fighters – representatives of those in the rescue mission. The sight of those men and women and the sound of that tune heightened the spirits of the bereft Americans. They realized that despite the savagery of their enemies, there were dependable citizens who in the calmness of their silence gave more hope than the oratory of their leadership; martyrs who were willing to face death to save other lives. Real or perceived, they saw epitomes of Godliness who stood out among many ÔÇô A Few Good Men! The tune was pure, ethereal and relevant for a nation in grief.

More than just the tune, I fell in love with the title to the extent that in 2012 when I saw a 20-year movie with the same title, I didn’t waste a moment; I dug into my pocket to secure a copy of the down-priced masterpiece. Apart from three people in military gear, the case of the DVD just bore the title ‘A Few Good Men’ and a hook ‘In the heart of the nation’s capital, in a court-house of the US Government, one man will stop at nothing to keep his honor, and one will stop at nothing to find the truth.’ The movie tells a story of military lawyers at a court martial who uncover a high level conspiracy in the course of defending their clients; two US Marines accused of murdering their colleague in what was unwittingly a military style haze.

At the center of the case is an implied ‘code red’ order, a violent extrajudicial punishment meted out on those that fail to compare well with their colleagues on endurance and physical strength. During the process of investigations, the base commander remains unfazed, arrogant and vows to run his unit how he deems fit and in an intimidating and threatening feat dares those that challenge him to roll the dice and take their chance. When the lawyers demand the truth as to whether he ordered ‘code red’, he puts it to them that ‘you can’t handle the truth’. In the end however, it is the firm resolve, temerity and fervent quest for justice by the lawyers, junior officers I might add, that crack the tough shell of the hardened base commander and he spews all the truth that lays bare the fact that behind the glittery decorations and badges that he adorns, there is darkness. He pushes those around him into sordid acts then, watches them and maroons them when they take a fall.He had ordered a ‘code red’ on an officer with health challenges he very well knew about and its potential fatality on him. He was going to let the poor soldiers do time for murder while he proudly kept his honor. It is the ‘Good Men’ that reveal the concealed evil that engulfs his heart by digging up for the truth.

I watched with awe as events of the past week unfolded. While I saw some hallmarks of ‘A Few Good Men’ screen-play in the case advanced before the courts by the Attorney General, I tried to refrain from drawing a parallel between the two, so much could make the whole charadeappear inspired by that movie. The discernable strength and essence of the case was to plead with the courts to disregard and derecognize autonomy of the legislature, much to the chagrin of the adjudicating panel of the case. The more the Attorney General grappled with advancing an explanation for her move, the more she lost credibility. The acrimonious case was in earnest an intention to scoff a section of one political establishment.

While the case twisted and contorted, elected legislators’ business was put in abeyance while their accommodation and well-being cost the tax-payer dearly. One is caused to wonder if it is within the time, financial and human resource budgets for the esteemed courts to dispose of cases that are not in the best interest of the nation. Did anyone stop and think of what would become of this nation if in that stint of scheming, anything that could deprive us of the president’s service happened ÔÇô no speaker to moderate parliamentary proceedings and no vice president to take the reins while constitutional processes are being followed. The constitutional vacuum in that regard would have plunged the nation in chaos and dire financial strain. Who wouldn’t feel expendable and desolate when their lives and their country; ‘a gift from God bequeathed to us by our forefathers’, can be exposed to so much risk? Such abdication of professional prerogative by the Attorney General may seem inexplicable but, in her heart of hearts she knows the real truth. Maybe she realizes ‘we can’t handle the truth’ but, truth has a way of coming out no matter how long untruths are sustained!

The long awaited election of The Speaker, Deputy Speaker and Vice President finally came. While many awaited the outcome with bated breath, I was busy recounting the lessons I learned from the Attorney General’s case with regard to accountability. We, the citizenry should contribute meaningfully in that area and place forestalling mechanisms by demanding to know before-hand, running mates for presidential candidates across the political divide, and who they would root for in the contest for position of The Speaker. Instead of just hearing about programmes, we must also hear about how leaders will be held to account at party level and how, in the event such leaders fail, the measures in place including recall procedures as stipulated their respective constitutions; all to make sure that they are not prone to becoming subservient to their leaders who are potentially leaders of the state. It may just be me but, the harbinger for future discord is clearer.

Now, let’s view an ideal citizenry-state relationship through the window of taxation. As we all might be aware taxation is fundamental to sustainable development. It supports the basic functions of an effective state and sets the context for economic growth. It catalyses state building and enhances accountability between citizenry and the state as citizens accept and comply with taxes envisaging effective provision of services, adhering to the rule of law and, transparency and frugality on public spending. That helps to build an effective state, raises meritocracy among the citizens and increases state capacity on many fronts; in general, it yields improved governance. However, if tax is perceived to unduly benefit a section of the citizenry, when public spending is questionable, when true motives and transparency are suspect; then, any semblance of good governance in a state is eroded; a slap on the face of citizenconfidence and goodwill.

What does this country need to realize the ideal citizenry-state relationship – this country needs ‘a few good men’; people who have been called to the charge of guarding the sacred deposit of the rights and liberties of their fellow citizens, people who know that in the face of evil, to sit silent is an even greater evil; people who shun complacency, inaction, passivity, apathy and will never stay mum and aloof in the face of bad governance. This country needs luminaries who not only join the crusade in the quest for what is right but are willing to be in the forefront, people who will put their heads on the block for national good, people who will never bow to any form of intimidation. These can be best described by that writer who penned thus: ‘… and there was them covered by an umbrella, only their feet and a little bit of lace could be seen. In the magnificent universe beneath the umbrella, they were immortal…’

That’s a description of people who won’t take ranks with ‘those who live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservativism, all of which appear to give one peace of mind. However, in reality nothing is more dangerous to the adventurous spirit than a secure future’, those whose spectrum of acceptable opinion has been limited and then allowed only some little debate in that limited spectrum, those whose world has no heart-beat!

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