|By Admin1 (admin) (188.8.131.52) on Monday, December 01, 2008 - 3:33 pm: Edit Post|
1976: Scott Stoll served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guatemala in Sacapulas beginning in 1976
Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Scott Stoll can be contacted at sculpturestudioahotmaildcom
Country of Service: Guatemala
Training Group: School Gardens
Cities you served in: Sacapulas
Arrival Year: 1976
Departure Year: 1979
Introduction of Vegetable gardening and nutrition into local schools
Other Countries you served in, Training Group Name Arrival Year, Departure Year, Work Description:
Bring us up to date on your life after the peace corps:
Currently working in Boston as a sculptor and psychiatric nurse. Recent trips to Guatemala to work on a cultural guide to the Ixil.
Any thoughts you have now looking back on peace corps days?:
Racism and the Restructuring of America's Economic Policies For many years, on the heels of my Peace Corps experience and consequent exposure to international business and military interventionism, I have lamented that to be an American is to wake up each morning under the umbrella of global slavery; in effect, each one of us consciously or not, a 21st century slave holder.
With the election of the first African American president during these collapsing economic times, it seems appropriate to revisit that disturbing youthful preoccupation. While the recent election generated a great swell of conversation regarding the issues of racism in domestic life and politics within America, little has been said about the racism underlying the very foundation of our economic and military development as the most powerful global player in the history of humankind. Institutionalized racism has not only plagued our domestic struggles since the nation's birth but has also shaped and fueled the forces of our foreign policy perpetrating rampant resource exploitation from people of color around the world.
History is rife with examples of US foreign policy courting, and frequently creating, social injustice for economic profit from countries of color. In Guatemala, (where I worked as a volunteer for 3 years), I learned about the collusion of a former Secretary of State, Cyrus Vance, and the CIA; which effectively, by overthrow of the first democratically elected non-military President, eliminated the possibility of modest land reform in order to protect a small amount of United Fruit Company's extensive landholdings of which the Secretary of State was a major stock holder.
During the same era other multinationals, such as the Coca-Cola Company, were brutal to the organization of labor as they operated beyond the reach of more progressive labor protections at home. In addition, US chemical companies denigrated the environment and health of the Guatemalan population by promoting and profiting from the sale of banned products (such as DDT) where only corporate conscience, lacking developing country regulations, might have made reasonable decisions to avoid public harm. This foreign policy strategy was not unique to Guatemala; a cookie cutter template of greed and exploitation founded in racist ideology became the standard for deciding when and where to use military force in Latin America to protect profitable business interests.
The rise of leftist sentiments and resistance to US hegemony resonating throughout much of Latin America today is a natural and direct response to this history and it is not a difficult argument to extend the essence of these foreign policy actions, (including the response to 9/11), to Africa and the Middle East where military, political, and corporate interventions pursue the spoils of war to satisfy our addictions for oil and other valuable resources around the world. The backlash of increasing resistance to using human beings of color as fodder for this resource exploitation has and will continue to rise up on a roiling social justice tide as long as we continue unjust strategies to achieve our national prosperity.
The economic crisis facing the nation and our new President elect has a complex web of causes but as the new administration considers our future, perhaps Obama might consider this nefarious past-- perhaps the one that many of us have not been proud of. The one that has made a growing though small number of US investors look for more conscientious and cleaner places to invest their money. Sadly, I would conclude after nearly three decades away from my Peace Corps experience, that the piece of American pie under rescue consideration during this time of global economic adjustments is, and has been for decades, fundamentally soured from a social justice perspective.
Eventually, President Clinton visited Guatemala to offer an apology to the Guatemalan people for the US government's behavior but the human toll from those actions is still tallied each year, day by day, in a country where more than 75% of the population is now enslaved by a poverty with deep roots in US economic exploitation.
If President elect Obama is to fully represent the highest symbol of our country overcoming racism, he must do more than offer apologies, he must go forward and challenge all of us as individuals and all of those corporations operating under the US flag, to integrate a new set of principals (with legislated regulation) based on ethics and morality that Americans can be proud of. We need strong and creative leadership to develop a working plan for a prosperous and competitive United States that doesn't rely on the same international acts of racism to grease the economic wheel.
Clearly, these considerations complicate getting the country 'back on track'; they lead us to a deep web of social, economic, and emotional conflict reaching well beyond our reckless pursuit for oil; threads of injustice are woven into the very fabric of our clothing and the sources of our daily bread. It is easy to dismiss these ideas: to offer a personal or patriotic protest naturally resisting the notion that we could possibly be the slave owner. We are good people after all, a distance from the CEOs and others making global decisions.
In my own case, I have Amish and Mennonite ancestors; as a culture those relatives have been conscientious objectors and experimenting with how to live with local and simple material needs for over 300 years in America. I do, however, cast even this family culture in the long shadow of the ill gotten benefits of our nations exploitive and racist assault on the cultures of color around the world; in the heartland (once stewarded by Native Americans), the Amish now care for their fertile farms; plowing in peace while the Pentagon flies above and around the world keeping the less powerful at bay.
It is a birthmark for all, an ugly inheritance. Each American must acknowledge some fundamental truths about our past, no matter how bitter, as a first step toward seed sown for a more just and promising future of healthy and prosperous cultures and communities participating in sustainable and fair trade on a global level. President elect Obama has spoken with passion of 'a redistribution of wealth' of 'Main Street versus Wall Street' perhaps, he wouldn't share, even privately in his heart of hearts, as critical a view of our economic and military presence in the international world. But I would ask him, and all of us, to consider how long any revived US prosperity will last if it is regained by the racist and exploitive model that led to decades of global dominance in pursuit of material wealth.
I hope that each one of us can challenge ourselves to generate ideas (perhaps even dusting some youthful and idealistic concerns off the shelf); that will reconnect and revitalize all regions of the world with what might truly be considered 'fair trade' and embrace the changes needed to realign the playing field of international commerce and cultural relations.
We have been doing some of this difficult work on racism within our nation, since Lincoln and the abolition of slavery as we defined it then, and all of us should celebrate the election of the first Black president, but we must extend those noble ideas and progressive strategies to the way in which we relate to the rest of the world today; even when it is not profitable to do so.
We can no longer afford our part in an economic order driven by a racist foreign policy that must be defended by building walls; it is a time to build bridges. author: Scott Stoll email: email@example.com
Anyone you are looking for or would like to hear from?:
All school garden volunteers 76-78
Any message for returned volunteers?:
Would love to re-connect with former PC group volunteers.
Originally posted: 12/1/2008
Peace Corps Annual Report: 1976; Peace Corps Guatemala; Directory of Guatemala RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Guatemala RPCVs
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