The views, opinions, and observations expressed in this journal are my own and in no way reflect the views, opinions, or policy of the Peace Corps, Peace Corps Morocco, nor any other governmental or non-governmental organization.

Nor is anything written here necessarily drawn from my own views, opinions, and observations. Please consider all postings and pictures complete fabrications with absolutely no bearing on reality. For legal purposes, please additionally regard the author as utterly imaginary.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Why, as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I'm Voting Obama

As is noted in the disclaimer above, the following is my personal opinion, and not that of the Peace Corps.

I am a Peace Corps volunteer serving in the Kingdom of Morocco, where I simultaneously love and abhor having a regular internet connection. I am following the election closely, and as November approaches, I grow more and more anxious every day. While Obama has enacted countless policies over the course of his tenure that I strongly disagree with (hit-lists of American citizens, increased deportation of immigrants, weak position on gay-rights, continued dawdling on climate change, no action on campaign finance reform), the election of Romney would have disastrous consequences for the work I do here. In fact, he and the party that has adopted him, through merely their campaign, have already managed to obstruct the goals of my job and of the Peace Corps.

Most basically, the Peace Corps is meant to promote peace. Romney, in an effort to appear strong-handed, is agitating for war all over the map while only a candidate. He encourages a trade war with China, renewed confrontations with Russia, attacking Iran, and vastly increasing the already bloated and spoiled defense budget. To what end? The entire, 50 year cost of the Peace Corps is equivalent to what we spend on defense in just 5 days.

War-mongering Romney recently went to Israel where he made some blatantly racist and anti-Islamic comments in an effort to appease his billionaire, Israel hawk sponsor and encourage war with Iran. People here, in Morocco, know this. (The fact Sheldon Adelson is Jewish doesn't help, either). What am I to tell them? Yes, a prominent man who may be president thinks you are all culturally, racially, and religiously handicapped. For the sake of a few votes Romney is selling us down the river. Here, we're trying to fix the damage done by decades of oil wars in the Middle East, eleven years of widespread anti-Islam hysteria, not to mention one crazed man in Florida burning a Koran. How can we claim to be working for peace when this man, representing half our population, agitates on all fronts for war?


Moving on, the Peace Corps has three goals. Firstly, providing technical assistance to those countries that ask for it. Secondly, helping people outside the United States understand America and American culture. And thirdly, to help Americans understand the cultures of other countries.

I'd like to examine the first one: technical assistance. In my case, this means working in youth development. Here in Morocco, diversity is rare and education consists mostly of rote memorization. Along with a religion that's practiced by recitation and not interpretation, this leads to a general shortage of open-mindedness, critical thinking, introspection, and empathy with the 'other'. And these are exactly the values I will be targeting here over the next two years. It's easy in a place like this to lock into your own beliefs, and not understand how any other ways of life, religious ideas, or values could be legitimate. This is a good way to brew extremism. The Romney-Ryan campaign is denigrating all of these values in their pursuit for the presidency.

The campaign is repeating blatant lies and gross distortions in the belief that objective truth is overrated, and in order to create your own truth, all that's needed is repetition and reverberation in the media sphere. Here, anti-semitism is taught by repetition, as I noted in an earlier post. In this year's campaign, people have stopped expecting truth from public leaders, and instead are fed repeated, demonstrable falsehoods (http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/30/speech-lies-and-apathy/).

Romney and Ryan's crass behavior is diametrically opposed to those American values I am attempting to impart to Moroccan youths. If they hear news of America, it is of what passes for public 'debate': a debate devoid of empathy, developed ideas, or even logical consistency. Instead they are witness to a teeming market of peddlers in fear, racial tension, and bullshit. Volunteers here are encouraging young people to think critically, openly seek the truth, and develop ideas about themselves and the broader world. How does this align with the discourse coming from America? Romney believes in a world without facts. "We won't let our campaign be dictated by facts," says Neil Newhouse. Perhaps, as Stephen Colbert famously said, "reality has a well-known liberal bias". Maybe this sheds some light on the campaign Romney and his advisors are currently running.

The second and third goals of the Peace Corps are more about cultural exchange. While Romney makes birther jokes, counts on anti-Arab sentiment,  and whines about 'american exceptionalism', Obama has worked to reverse the image of America as trigger-happy, international cowboy. From my perspective, there are very real goods to be had by understanding Moroccan culture. There's a sense of communalism- all generations look after one another. And people are unbelievably generous with their belongings and their time. Meanwhile, Ryan would like to burn the social safety net and sacrifice all the old people in America to health insurance companies. Looking after others is considered scornful. For Ayn-Randians, it's straight-up immoral. Generosity is viewed as creeping socialism. Caring is anti-capitalist. Poverty is personal failure, wealth is moral eminence.

Romney, humanoid-robot, is not exactly priming the american population to expand its cultural and ethical horizon. Instead, he is closing it off from the outside, protecting radical elements of the republican base from perspective and truth. In this environment, how are we to bring cultural values back home? And why would Moroccans have any desire to learn about, appreciate, and admire American values when they have become so deliberately twisted and deformed in the public space?


I'm voting Obama. My biggest problem isn't Romney's sick desire to increase the wealth disparity in the US. I haven't even started in on Ryan's war on women. (This other volunteer has more to say on that subject than I do: http://maggieinmorocco.tumblr.com/post/29917052701/my-toughts-on-todd-akin). And it's not that he has zero international experience. It's not that he is anti-gay, anti-immigrant, anti-science, anti-poor, anti-female, and anti-old people.

The problem with the republican campaign is that they're anti-reason. And they are opposed to what is best among American values: equality, integrity, honesty, and empathy.

They are against my mission as a Peace Corps volunteer.

1 comment:


The views, opinions, and observations expressed in this journal are my own and in no way reflect the views, opinions, or policy of the Peace Corps, Peace Corps Morocco, governmental or non-governmental organizations.

Nor is anything written here necessarily my own views, opinions, or observations. Please consider all pictures and texts here to be complete fabrications with absolutely no bearing on reality, this one or any other. For legal purposes, please additionally consider the author to be utterly imaginary.