I want to share with you an article that a friend of mine and fellow PCV wrote in our latest newsletter. Thanks for this Sam.
‘It is 2017, but it is starting to feel more like the last century versus the twenty-first. ‘America First’ a slogan of anti-interventionists in 1940, has been repackaged for the fears, anxieties, and divisions of today. However, 2017 need not repeat the moral failures of the past. Peace Corps demands of us to draw upon a sense of service that puts the needs of strangers before that of our own through not just words, likes, or tweets, but action. If there ever was a time for action, it is now, 2017.
Our time in Thiés saw renewed hope of democracy in our home, the Gambia, but also the unreality of the rise of a loudmouth, vain, and heavy-handed president who thinks he has all the answers that is in fact reality. Théis has provided access-perhaps too much access-to information on protests, Twitter tantrums, and an executive order that suspend the hopes of refugees around the world.
Maybe it is easy to try to ignore it all, to tune out, or show solidarity with the post or all ‘like’. As PCVs we can feel disconnected from America, as if our voices are silenced. But, we do have a voice, many powerful voices to stand up for what we believe in, to understand those that are different, and to protest.
50 years ago, more than 90 PCVs in Chile signed a letter to be published in the New York Times protesting the continued bombing of North Vietnam. The volunteers were silenced and the organizer, Bruce Murray, was sent home. The ACLU took up the case and a federal judge ruled the dismissal unconstitutional. PCVs have the right to speak out and protest US policies. Even the manual (yes this was looked up) notes, “V/Ts are free to petition The US government and its officials in the same manner as they could have they remained in the United States” (MS 204, 3.9).
Well our collective focuses on our communities, host families, and the Gambia, they must not turn a blind eye to what is happening in America. Trump has used his executive power to begin to dismantle Obamacare, our federal funds supporting abortions overseas, advanced two oil pipelines, build a wall (no way Mexico is paying for it), cracked down on undocumented immigrants, and, most recently, his actions to bar refugees and all persons from seven Muslim majority countries. Are you awake yet?
At least 1000 state department employees have signed onto a ‘dissent cable’, a letter denouncing trump’s executive order on refugees. Spread through the ‘dissent channel’, a formal means for employees to voice concerns about policies and procedures, the letter says, “… this band stands in opposition to the core American and constitutional values that we, as federal employees, took an oath to uphold.”
We too were once immigrants and understand the hopes and dreams of many Gambian to aspire for the opportunity of America.
And while we can post, tweet, and ‘like’ to show support, our democracy and necessitates the direct engagement of each of us. We cannot march on Washington, but we can write our representatives. We can donate (or encourage others) to organizations like the ACLU, American Refugee Committee, and the Center for Investigative Reporting. We can add our names to online petitions. We can get organized.
At the end of this newsletter there’s a letter opposing trumps immigration order that you can sign and then center senators. There’s also a list of senators by state. It only cost 40 dalasi to stand up, speaking out, and protest.
This is just one action and actions should not end today. Together, our voices speak volumes. Together, we can plan creative ways to speak out, act, and protest. Together, we can stand up for what is right.’
An added tid bit that was not in the article:
In 1983, PCV in the Dominican republic protested the invasion of Granada outside the US Embassy. He was photographed by a newspaper wearing a Peace Corps shirt. We got admin sep’d and sued, but a court backed PC. Then in 2003, also in the Dominican republic, around 70 PCVs were planning a protest of the Iraq war. The Country Director was initially OK with that, but DC caught wind of it and warms that people would be admin sep’d. Only three PCVs ended up protesting, but they didn’t end up placing any consequences.
So what can I do? What can you do? Stay engaged, active, and prepared to fight policies rooted in injustice. Here are some tools in the picture below:
I live in The Gambia. A Muslim Country. You know how I feel here? Safe. Welcomed. Loved. Un-threatened. I just pray that more people can see past an untrue stigma that has been branded because of radicals. I urge people to look into the past of other religions. Radicals exist, bad things happen, evil is apparent in this world emanating from men, women, Christians, Atheists, mothers, fathers. I am seeing evil stemming from the hatred that is growing and overflowing from the place than I call home more than ever before in my own lifetime. It’s unsettling.
I urge us to all value life. I urge us all to value human beings. I urge us all to look deeply into, explore, and understand for ourselves real life and not the garbage that the media attempts to pour down our throat. Recognize our own unconscious biases. I, too, have them. Remove the single story.