Every year since I finished my Peace Corps service in South Africa, I’ve traveled to a different Peace Corps country and produced a short film about the unique aspects of service there. I was planning to do the same this year, but the election of Donald Trump has caused me to re-evaluate that plan.
Trump’s victory was as shocking to me as everyone else, but it wasn’t until I received an email from the President of the National Peace Corps Association that I truly felt the weight of the situation. In the letter, NPCA President Glenn Blumhorst encourages Returned Peace Corps Volunteers to contact Trump’s transition team about the importance of Peace Corps service.
It may seem innocuous, after all, NPCA has been advocating for Peace Corps for decades, but President-Elect Trump is fundamentally different than any of his predecessors. Trump has called for a Muslim registry, for the immediate deportation of millions of immigrants, and a withdrawal from international treaties. Some of his cabinet selections are reputed white-supremacists.
Trump’s agenda is anathema to everything Peace Corps represents, and one of the horrifying truths of this election, is the end of Peace Corps as we know it. Even if Trump keeps the Peace Corps, it won’t be the same program that I joined. Proportionally, Peace Corps has highest number of political appointees of any agency in the federal government. This means that more than any other agency, Peace Corps will be a representation of the Trump doctrine.
As Trump’s likely pick for the Environmental Protection Agency is an outspoken climate change denier, I can easily imagine a neocolonialist agenda at Trump’s Peace Corps.
If we ever hope for our own country to actually embody the values of Peace Corps service, then we must focus on reaching out to our fellow Americans.
I still owe a lot to Peace Corps as it was. Peace Corps gave me the skills to listen and understand people with very different ideologies. I hope all of you will remember what you learned in service, and will do whatever you can to support your friends and neighbors of color, and to protect the immigrants and Muslims in your communities.
(Adapted photo by Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0)