Wednesday, April 4, 2018

When returned Peace Corps Volunteers turn out to be racists...

Those of you who read this blog regularly may remember that I have a stubborn uncle who regularly spams my inbox with conservative political bullshit.  Last year, I asked him to stop emailing me.  He did for awhile, but then the emails resumed.  I usually ignore anything my uncle sends because most of his emails are offensive and do nothing more than raise my blood pressure.

I did happen to read the two he sent yesterday.  The first one was annoying and, having done some Googling, I determined that it's been floating around the Internet since at least 2010.  I decided not to respond to that one, since it was just the usual "God bless America" propaganda he usually sends.  But then he sent a second email.  That one made me sit up and take notice.  It was reportedly written by Karin McQuillan, a returned Peace Corps Volunteer who served in Senegal for about a year in 1971 and 1972.  

I was born in 1972, so Karin McQuillan was a Volunteer a long time ago and, evidently, did not stay the full two years.  As regular readers may know, I was also a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Republic of Armenia.  So was my oldest sister, Betsy, who served in Morocco.  My husband, Bill, now does work in Africa and has visited Senegal, where Ms. McQuillan was posted all those years ago.  This email sent by my uncle does provoke a response.

This is the email my uncle sent me.  Here's a link to the original source, where it's more easily read.

Even though my uncle has sent me racist political bullshit before, I was pretty stunned by his decision to send me (and everyone else on his email list) the one that appears in today's post.  I know my uncle doesn't consider his audience before he sends these things.  It doesn't occur to him that he has a few relatives who might be offended by his spam.  I suspect he sends a lot of this stuff after he's been drinking.  As a former Peace Corps Volunteer, it really saddens me to read the racist diatribe written by Karin McQuillan.  I see a lot of other former Volunteers are equally shocked and saddened by Ms. McQuillan's comments about Senegal, which has certainly changed a lot since 1972.

Not all Peace Corps Volunteers are liberals.  When I was a Volunteer, I identified as a Republican, mainly because that was how I was raised and I was politically naive.  I spent my entire youth around people who were mostly God fearing, flag waving, military loving right-wingers.  And I happily agreed with them because that was what I knew.

My time in Armenia changed me immeasurably.  It wasn't always a pleasant experience for me, living in the former Soviet Union.  I did witness firsthand what happens when communism falls apart.  I saw a lot of depressed, lazy people who no longer had jobs provided to them by the government.  On the other hand, I also saw a lot of liberated, talented, determined people who were ready to turn their country into a place with its own identity.  By Trump's standards, Armenia may have veered close to "shithole" territory in 1995, but it's certainly not a shithole now.

When I finished my service in 1997, I was a changed person.  I won't lie.  It was difficult to adapt to being back in the States after my time in the Peace Corps.  I experienced major depression and crippling anxiety.  I also had some serious skin infections, one of which almost landed me in the hospital.  But once I recovered physically and emotionally from the Peace Corps, I found that my views had mostly changed.  Today, 21 years post close of service (COS), I mostly remember great things about my time in Armenia.  I'm proud of my host country and what I was able to accomplish there.  

The most important thing I learned from my Peace Corps experience is that America is not the end all, be all of places to be.  In fact, if the truth be told, I am quite happy living in Germany.  I don't know how long we'll be privileged enough to live here, but I'll happily stay as long as they let us.  Personally, I think Germany works better than the United States does.  I think the people as a whole are more community minded.  Germans have taken to heart the disaster that was allowing Adolf Hitler to run their country.  They've rebuilt, admittedly with help from other countries, including the United States.  But they're paying it forward by showing compassion to people from disadvantaged countries.  Not everyone is comfortable with the influx of Syrians who have come to Germany.  Some Germans are afraid that Syrians will try to change Germany into Syria.  However, while Germans are compassionate people, they also have a very orderly side to them.  I have a feeling the German culture will be very hard to wash away.

I read last night that Karin McQuillan worked as a psychotherapist and has written several mysteries based on her time in Africa, both as a Peace Corps Volunteer and as a tourist.  Her books were apparently well-received.  And yet, when I read her screed about Senegal and her evident fears that 
allowing people from poor countries in the United States will sink us to "shithole status", I can't help but wonder why she decided to join the Peace Corps.  I also wonder why she only lasted a year.  Did she quit or was she kicked out of the country?  

McQuillan's post on The American Thinker paints an entire nation of people with a broad brush.  I'm sure that kind of stereotyping goes on all the time among ignorant people.  One would hope that McQuillan, who did have the privilege of working abroad and has been gifted with a "voice" through her writing, would understand that her comments are not much better than the ones that come from people who lambast America.  

A Greek woman I met here in Germany explained why she had decided to move to Germany instead of the United States.  She said America is "too dangerous".  Frankly, I have to agree.  However, it would not be right to classify all Americans as "dangerous, ignorant, rednecks".  McQuillan's essay makes Senegal sound as if it's full of savages who go around cutting off little girls' clitorises willy nilly and shit freely in the street.  I have not visited Senegal, but Bill has been there on business.  He did not witness the Senegal McQuillan describes.  

The cynical side of me wonders if someone is paying McQuillan handsomely to spout off her vile comments.  I would like to think she's more intelligent than she comes across in her piece for The American Thinker.  I would hope that even if she is really that conservative, deep down, she's got more sense than to honestly believe that Senegal is exactly the way she describes it, particularly since she was there in the early 70s.  I wonder if she simply wrote that piece to rally the racist morons who support Donald Trump and his ilk.  I truly hope she's smarter than they are.  Check out the comments on The American Thinker piece and you'll see what I mean.  There are lots of shamefully ignorant statements there made by "proud Americans" who are also apparently very racist.

As for my uncle, I won't be surprised if he responds to my brief comment about his decision to forward that email to me.  I expect his comments to me will be dismissive and perhaps even nasty.  The last time I objected to his political spam, he called me a "liberal nut case".  I suppose I might thank him for prompting me to learn about Karin McQuillan.  Twenty-four hours ago, I had never heard of her.  This morning, she's given me food for thought, and my uncle has shown me, once again, why I can never go home again.


  1. I can see that your uncle would completely and blindly support and obey the orange buffoon in the White House. I am considering retiring to a different country as I have been to several that feel much safer than this one.

    1. Amen to that. My husband is talking about moving to Spain when he's ready to be done with working.

      It makes me sad that my relatives so blindly support Trump. I would have hoped they could see just how vile he is. I get that they're Republicans, but I don't understand why they wouldn't want a better man in office... one who isn't a complete narcissistic asshole.


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