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The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

The Truth About the Fact: A Journal of Literary Nonfiction is an international journal committed to the idea that excellence in the art of letters can play a vital role in transforming the planet we share.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Clothes and Closure

ZZZZZZZZZZZZip! John Fayiah closes up the zipper on a large suitcase filled with unused clothing in the living room of his small home, just south of the city of Monrovia. John is a small business owner in the African country of Liberia, a nation which until very recently was torn apart by the violence of a civil war spanning across multiple decades. Although UN peace-keeping forces have been able to restore a relative amount of peace in Liberia for the past six years, the physical, emotional, and economic scars of the brutal conflict are still deeply felt. John’s shop in the city’s market district sells mostly new clothes, and while there is a demand for his goods, his business is still struggling due to a lack of capital. Like so many in his country, the war has left him with almost nothing. Everything he now owns has been scrimped and saved from scratch.

The origins of the Liberian conflict are myriad and complex, but mainly it can be traced back to the emancipation of slaves in the United States going back to even before the closing of our own civil war. The Republic of Liberia was established in the early 1800’s with the good intentions of being an independent state for freed American slaves to be able to colonize and start a new life without having to suffer the hardships of racial prejudice. The freed slaves who arrived, however, still considered themselves to be American, not African, and soon began to oppress and in some cases even enslave the ethnic natives of the region now named “Liberia” in honor of their newly obtained liberty.

Establishing a pseudo-democracy, loosely based off of the American model, the Americo-Liberian political party monopolized control of the government and continued the practice of oppression of the native peoples for well over a century. This monopoly of power was held until 1980, when a military coup composed of soldiers belonging to a mixture of the ethnic groups claiming mistreatment closed in on the capital city of Monrovia, named after the American President James Monroe, who first proposed the “back to Africa” initiative. The soldiers stormed the President’s mansion, took him hostage, and then proceeded to film in his office as they butchered and ate him while he was still alive. The act was a remnant practice of the native cultures’ warrior superstitions, which hold that eating the flesh (especially the heart) of your opponent will give you his strength and power.

Thus began an inevitable civil war with many uncanny parallels to the more widely publicized Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Although it has seen far less media attention, the Liberian turmoil has seen far greater horrors and atrocities, including innumerable acts of rape and cannibalism, the enslavement of child soldiers through brain washing and drug addiction, and the practice of human sacrifices before going into battle, usually in the form of killing an innocent child and drinking its blood. One rebel leader, who was one of the most infamous practitioners of child sacrifices, went by the name of “General Butt-Naked,” because he and his soldiers would fight without any clothes on, believing that it would ward off any harm from bullets.

Today the conflict is at a standstill, but no one in the country has gone unaffected, and no one is able to forget about the things they have seen in their lifetime. John Fayiah was still a young man when the conflicts started, and initially was very passionate about the politics behind the fighting. Now, at 37 years old, he just wants to be able to close the book on that chapter of his life. He simply would like for his two sons to be able to grow up without the fear of being killed or kidnapped in acts of senseless violence. A small but important part of his personal recovery would be to simply gain the dignity of working in his own shop each to day to make his living. It is this emotional type of closure that John Fayiah is seeking in his entrepreneurial pursuits. Not the kind that will put an end to his business.

If you’d like to help John, or any of the countless other small business owners from impoverished regions around the world, please visit, where you can make an investment as small as just $25. Your contribution, combined with the investments of thousands of other people from around the world, can help to provide businesses like John’s with the basic capital investment they need to become self-sustaining. You will be helping people in need, and because it is an investment, not a donation, your loan will be repaid back to you in full.

-Paul Beckwith


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