Real Message- Regrets on not marching

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Special Reports: May 16, 2003 - The Nation: Protest at the Peace Corps : Real Message- Regrets on not marching

By Aaron Drendel on Friday, July 11, 2003 - 12:59 pm: Edit Post

It is unbelievable to me that so many Americans, especially RPCV's, seem to protest their own right to protest. I suppose if you keep on ignoring your rights they will disappear anyway.

The fact is that when we organized this protest, we did not identify ourselves to the media as Peace Corps volunteers. We also were in touch with a Dominican group who was interested in joining the protest. There is no rule in the Peace Corps guidelines against protesting your own government's policies (only those of host countries). Someone said that as a government employee you couldn't protest your employer. That might be so in China, but as American's we have that freedom as long as we are not on duty or identifying ourselves as a representative of that agency, which we were not going to do. In the Nation article, my opinion was somewhat cut down to say we wanted to show Dominicans that we did not approve with our country's policies, but ultimately the goal was to express our discontent to our embassy. It is also amazing to be told that we did not have the right to protest because PC is a non-political organization. My wife worked for the Secretary of Education, who also was the Vice President of the Dominican Republic. By the way she is with the White Party. She also was posted on the front page in the center of our group when we swore in, promoting her information technology program. Also, isn't the director of Peace Corps appointed by our president and approved by congress (i.e. POLITICALLY appointed). So, what part of PC isn't political? Finally, this hogwash about the U.S.A. being the only place where we are guaranteed our freedoms is maddening. We were protected more under Dominican laws than those of our own "free" country. We currently enjoy less freedom of expression than many nations on earth. After all, what is controversial in carrying a sign that says "An eye for an eye, and the whole world will go blind." I suppose the current administration is not sympathetic to Hindu causes either.

The only mistake I made in this whole process was not marching with Kauffman. I was worried about my future employment opportunities while he thought only of the cause. If I could change one thing about my 2-year service it would be that 15 minutes. Oh well, it never helps to dwell on the past, though it might help for some people to review it.

We don't have the rights we have today because of some all too powerful military and Commander in Chief telling other armies to "Bring it on". We enjoy our rights because some liberal thinkers decided to fight the oppressing powers. Today some people trivialize acts of protest, but nonetheless these acts are the only hope our country has right now. The damned election booths don't seem to be working. If an act as simple as dumping crates of tea off a boat has the power to change history, I would like to think that we still have some power to change things through our civil disobedience today. As I was sitting in an Administrator's office after our protest had been squashed, listening to yet another justification of why we couldn't do this and that, I saw an all powerful picture hanging on his wall, and his words disintegrated into nothing. The picture was of that Chinese student who had the gall to place his body in front of an oncoming row of tanks on that fateful day in Tienamen Square. I'm sure that some idiot in the crowd on that day said, "He can't do that, doesn't he know that is against the rules." Regardless, the heroic picture left us a real life metaphor of what we face if we really want to change the current trend our world is following, one little person standing in front of a line of huge tanks, looking straight down the barrel of a cannon.

By mavenno1 on Thursday, July 24, 2003 - 10:58 pm: Edit Post

you go boy
well said.
Philippines (63-66)

By Ann & Pete Wilson (awaw) on Tuesday, July 29, 2003 - 4:13 pm: Edit Post

How, pray tell, did you plan to prevent the Dominican media from identifying you as Peace Corps volunteers? Surely that many Anglos gathered in protest outside the US Embassy would have aroused their curiosity. The revelation that these large numbers of protesters were PCVs would, undoubtedly, have embarrassed our government. Unless I missed something, embarrassing our government was not in my job description as a PCV.
You say the only mistake you made in this whole process was not marching with the other three protesters. I believe that your first mistake was picking a fight that you were unprepared to see through to its end, irrespective of the personal consequences. Each time I have made this mistake it was because I failed to thoroughly analyze the issue rationally, rather the emotionally. Chalk this up to one of those experiences that we learn from.

By AJ Collins ( - on Monday, January 08, 2007 - 8:12 pm: Edit Post

Dear Ann & Pete, and Aaron
You make a good point that Aaron seemed to lack the foresight necessary to understand what his involvement in the protest required from its inception to its fruition, but that's a point that he pretty much concedes. At least he is willing to admit his frustration with allowing himself to be censured; this, in itself, will provide perspective when he encounters such a situation again; hopefully, though, it won't be a knee-jerk reaction to persist without--as you say--analyzing the repercussions of his actions.
However, I'm sure that you also realize that it may be a Volunteer's personal duty and responsibility to him/herself (or even to the US Constitution, which is at the core of the PCV contract) to oppose the US government's actions. "Embarassing" the government, while not the aim of Aaron's original protest, may indeed be a result of a protest; if so, couldn't that embarassment encourage a government to re-evaluate its actions and policies? Ideally, yes, though most governments are more concerned with self-perpetuation and preserving power, and less prepared to learn from the negative results of their actions--a point that you encourage Aaron toward, though it's one that we should have the optimism to insist our government adhere to as well.

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