Not a new conversation--just my 2 cents

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Special Reports: May 16, 2003 - The Nation: Protest at the Peace Corps : Not a new conversation--just my 2 cents

By arielle on Tuesday, June 10, 2003 - 11:22 am: Edit Post

I am in Americorps, and of course we fall under the same repressive rules as you all do, namely the "Hatch Act". What a joke this is! I mean, the simple fact that we have decided to join Peace/Americorps is political in and of itself, there is no way that this is apolitical, or that we could pretend that it is. I have continuosly joined in anti-imperialist ralleys, wearing my americorps garb--intentionally...if it is not we who speaks up and out, when we are the ones exposed to the realities of class war, gender war, etc etc, then who will speak? The whole premise of Americorps is to "Eradicate Poverty"! This makes me laugh, and then it makes me sick. The realities of such a lofty proclamation, is false and attempts to give us some kind of hope that if we work hard enough and organize then we will see some fundamental change/results. No, No, No, for this would actually *solve* our paradigm in which we live--the neo-capitalists wish nothing of the sort, which is why we are seeing drastic cuts in VISTA*, yet we can create these fascists programs such as "Homeland Security" Americorps? Or create a new program that goes into rural communites only to inondate them with the whole "get married, because its beneficial tax wise?!" What the hell is going on in this country? I'm so confused.....alas this is when paradigmatic deconstruction is needed right now---or dare i uprising? to idealisitic? i think not....ok thanks for reading...bye...=^#92;

By hugh campbell on Tuesday, June 10, 2003 - 12:29 pm: Edit Post

I agree with the PC decision.

First of all, PC is not a political organization, and can not afford to be associated with political causes in the countries where it works. In Nicaragua, we still have problems getting our work done because many people, for some reason, associate the PC with anti-Sandinista political parties (Daniel Ortega disallowed the Peace Corps in Nicaragua during his term).

Secondly, your first ammendment rights apply IN THE UNITED STATES. It doesn't matter if you are a US citizen, it is PURELY ARROGANT to think you can carry these rights to other countries. Try protesting religious opression in Iran and you'll find yourself sentenced to death by stoning.

Let's remember, as PC volunteers, part of our job is to be culturally sensitive. What goes in the US doesn't necessarily go in other countries, particularly if it makes the PC's mission more difficult.

By ari on Tuesday, June 10, 2003 - 12:52 pm: Edit Post

First, perhaps you misunderstood me, I am not in a different country, I am in America. If I were in another country I would certainly NOT proclaim my constitutional rights as an American--I'm not stupid. Secondly, I think it is up to us that are entrenched in these communities, to speak up---again I am in Americorps NOT Peace Corps...please re-read my post....and I still disagree with your position regarding these programs as being apolitical----but I also understand where you're coming from---esp in the sense of being in another country--ok bye...

By Bill Wilson on Tuesday, June 10, 2003 - 9:43 pm: Edit Post


For the record, if I thought joining the peace corps or any organization implied that I followed a particular political philosophy, I'd never consider it. My political views aren't bound by one side's narrow boundaries. And if the Peace Corps or The Americorps are so narrow minded as to only accept those of a particular political bent, I'd not want to be associated with either of them .

By Ira Gwin on Friday, June 13, 2003 - 7:38 pm: Edit Post

Remember the name of the group, "Peace" Corps? Just what does that imply? If you wanted to supprt armed agression overseas, you could have joined the Army. PCV's are associated with our government UNLESS we are able to show that Americans can and do protest against their government's actions. That's supposed to be somewhat we are doing overseas, otherwise why not join USAID or work for Mobil Oil? In my day (the good old days) Volunteers had a lot of clout with the PC organization, and we emphasized the fact that we were volunteers, independent, and while we were proud of our nation and its ideals, we would not stand by and let political action by our leaders go unopposed, even overseas. That being said, the facts are the the Corps is now considered by many in Washington to be simply an arm of US policy, and Volunteers are expected to toe the party line. I say screw 'em. Take back the Corps, or it will simply become another arm of USAID. PCV's who decided to stay home and teach Home Eco or whatever missed an opportunity to show the host country what it really means to be an American. If you don't have the balls to stand up and support real American Ideals, instead of mouthing what Washingtion is dealing out, you'd better go back to Kansas and get a job at Walmart. Sorry kids, I'm really disapointed that you didn't show up. Ira Gwin Colombia I

By elizralex on Saturday, June 14, 2003 - 3:24 pm: Edit Post

On the face of it demonstrations seem to be a rather absurd request for Peace Corps Volunteers in foreign countries. I thought we were there for peace not to avocate our political opinions. what in the world gives us the right to protest in another country???????

By Wroksie Jackson on Tuesday, July 01, 2003 - 12:34 pm: Edit Post

Surely one can never know the entire story on any side, though I'm wondering the extent to which political autonomy was strongly encouraged to PCVs in the DR.

Trainees in my cohort, from the time we arrived at staging, well into our service, we were strongly discouraged from ANY participation in political activities during our tour.

In light of the political climate in West Africa, particularly among Guinea's southern neighbors, it was, in fact, prudent, not to "speak out" in an environment where US civil liberties aren't really upheld. Peace Corps could not have stressed the importance of our neutrality enough.

I remember being mistaken as a Liberian here or a Sierre Leonian there, and have come close to many a life-threatening situations (as do many of us), based on some authority or rebel's perception of who I am or where I stand.

While Peace Corps' policies may seem overbearing, you just NEVER know whose watching...

By Jeremy Gernand on Tuesday, July 01, 2003 - 7:58 pm: Edit Post

As volunteers we must set our right to free speech at a lower priority than the well being of other volunteers as well as our effectiveness in the work we are trying to accomplish. Peace Corps' mission in the world is one that will only be accomplished very slowly (one relationship to the next). One protest will not speed it along, and could very well cause more confusion about our objectives among people in our host country.

If you want to show your discontent with the US government, do so in your community, where the people know and respect you. Taking public action will be mis-interpreted more often than not, and could even be turned by a less than independent press into something you never wished it to be.

We all accepted limitations on our speech when we became Peace Corps volunteers. I don't see anyone here advocating that we should also overturn the ban on proselytizing, and allow religious teaching by volunteers, so why should one just push for the right to have a political protest, and not be concerned with other expressions. I suspect this debate has more to do with personal desires, than a desire for the benefit of the community of volunteers or the communities of our host nations.

By Joanne Marie Roll (joey) on Monday, July 07, 2003 - 8:55 pm: Edit Post

There are two issues. The first is the need to protect the right of volunteers to speak out as American citizens about policies of our own United States Government. I believe the guidelines pursuant to that civil right should be spelled out in a personal service contract that all serving volunteers should have. I believe that such a contract would protect serving volunteers from intimation and administrative whim.
The second issue is the prohibition against serving volunteers becoming politically involved in t host country politics. I support this restriction for all the reasons which have been so beautifully stated by Jeremy Germand and Wroksie Jackson as well as many others.

By Richard van Pelt on Monday, July 07, 2003 - 8:58 pm: Edit Post

I was in Sierra Leone VI during Viet Nam. During a coup, the military relayed to some of us everything about the planned insurrection, telling us that they "knew" we were CIA and just wanted to be sure we got the story straight.

No matter how we tried to explain, they still had a perception of us. The moral is that we had to walk a very fine line to insure our neutrality in local issues. By extension, that included remaining neutral with respect to Viet Nam. None of us gave up our rights; none of us gave up our opinions. We just remained diplomatic. When asked, I would explain my view and that I disagreed with my government, but I did not carry out overt protests.

By Sara Sherlund on Wednesday, July 09, 2003 - 1:19 pm: Edit Post

just a quick comment on a couple messages. To Ira Gwin- right on. I think it is sad how the govt. is (more than ever before) trying to use PC to further policies that some pcv's disagree with. All this talk lately of "freedom" and protecting it seems directly opposed to the actions of our current govt. PCVs as representatives of American ideals should indeed feel free to speak out against our government if they disagree with govt. policy. Isn't that the freedom GW & company propose to be selling to the oppressed Iraqi citizens? (and perhaps the reason they aren't buying it is the fact that the US govt. supported saddam's regime a mere 20 years ago and even supplied the chemical weaponry, perchance they detect a false note in this sudden interest in Iraqi freedom?). As for my second (and as it turns out, not so brief) comment, this to Jeremy Gernaud- if we start giving our various "american" freedoms lower priority, who's to say they won't be removed entirely, and not just when serving overseas? Yes the goals of peace corps take a long time, but I hardly think that speaking out against war could confuse these goals- you know, PEACE corps. Neutrality is a political concept. Being against war is not political in as such speaking out against war is not declaring alliance with Iraq or the US or the Dominican republic or whoever. It isn't taking sides, it's common sense.

By kimallen on Wednesday, July 09, 2003 - 6:21 pm: Edit Post

WOW, I forgot how seriously PCVs take ourselves and our role in the world. Let's get a sense of humor and keep life in perspective. Protesting the war as a PCV is no more relevant than protesting as a non-PCV. Both efforts are futile. Furthermore, comparing Peace Corps to USAID and other development agencies with our air of superiority is laughable. Our self-proclaimed importance as PCVs is arrogant. When I see the comercials describing Peace Corps as a development agency; I laugh. Maybe an agency for self-development. We will always get more out of our experience then we give; we will always grow more than our host-country counterparts. If you don't believe me, go back and see if the toilet you built is still being used, is the water tap still working, and where are all the books from the library you started? How presumptious to think that we can go into any culture and change something in two years. We only have the power to change ourselves, period. The sooner we figure that out the less likely we are to get our "knickers in a knot" over whether PCVs should be allowed to protest a war or not.

So as not to be completly negative, Peace Corps is a great at preparing individuals going on in development work and PCVs are usually better than non-PCVs at designing culturally appropriate programs in the countries they work.

Kim Allen, Nepal 88-90

By Phyllis on Tuesday, July 15, 2003 - 2:09 pm: Edit Post

Kim, you are on the money. Folks, it's not that critical. You are supposed to enjoy your experience, make some new friends, and then come back and tell people how much fun you had breaking the rules. US foreign policy, right or wrong; is not the mission of PCV's. But, then again this is America and only in America can we believe it's okay to go to someone else's country and bring our politics and bad manners with us.

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