Support Peace Corps volunteers
Forty-one years ago, I returned from my Peace Corps service in Togo under calm circumstances very different from the emergency evacuation experienced by all current volunteers. I am grateful that Congress passed and the president signed legislation that included $88 million to support the evacuation and initial transition costs for approximately 7,300 volunteers from 61 countries whose programs were temporarily suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, this support, important as it is, is not enough.
Many of these volunteers return to communities in lockdown, and none is returning to a waiting job. Therefore, I urge all reading this to write or call their representatives in Congress and ask them for ongoing support for evacuated volunteers. Through no fault of their own, they have suddenly been uprooted and sent home. They will face a variety of exceptional financial, health and emotional concerns as a result of employment or unemployment needs, potential gaps in long-term health coverage, student loan deferment or relief, and more. It is imperative that the next round of legislation include provisions that respond specifically to the needs of these dedicated Peace Corps volunteers.
When this pandemic passes, we will then need to ramp up and redeploy our Peace Corps volunteers to finish the work they started. Since 1961, approximately 1,984 Peace Corps volunteers from Maine alone (approximately 250,000 nation-wide) have represented our nation passionately and effectively, providing goodwill and development assistance in an interconnected world.
As a returned volunteer, I have always said since 1979 that, dollar for dollar, the Peace Corps is the most effective element in our foreign relations and international technical assistance programming. I want to thank everyone in advance for their urgent action in support of all evacuated Peace Corps volunteers.
Where do they think they’re going?
I was out on I-95 northbound on Friday and I saw many out of state vehicles headed north. Most were from New York and Connecticut and three were hauling campers behind them! Where do these people think they are going?
So, now they are going to come up to Maine and potentially bring more coronavirus into our state? Why is the state not stopping out of state individuals at the toll booth in York, and if they do not own land or a house in Maine, turning them away? We have no way to know if these people are carriers or not, so Maine citizens might have to pay the price for these out of state people.
Coronavirus and the potato famine
In regard to the BDN story,” Maine CDC: 2 more Mainers die from coronavirus,” on March 30:
When the Great Famine swept through Ireland, 1845 to 1850, John Mitchel, Irish nationalist wrote: “The Almighty, indeed, sent the potato blight, but the English created the famine.”
President Donald Trump did not cause the coronavirus pandemic. But I believe the president worsened the catastrophic spread throughout the country by his denials and delays. He told the nation on January 22: “We have it totally under control.” And February 28: “It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”
As the death toll continues to rise, Trump seems to be driven by the principle of laissez-faire economics, which asserts the function of the state is to maintain order and security and to avoid interference with the initiative of individuals in pursuit of their own desired goals to achieve wealth.
This is the same school of economics Charles Trevelyan, assistant secretary to the Treasury of Britain in charge of Ireland’s famine relief, adhered to during the Irish famine. Trevelyan is represented in the 1979 folk ballad, The Fields of Athenry, the story of a starving man convicted for stealing from the abundant food supply: “By a lonely prison wall, I heard a young girl calling
Michael they have taken you away, For you stole Trevelyan’s corn.”
Our gifted scientists may develop a vaccine to inoculate us from the deadly coronavirus in the next year and a half. But if our country is smart, it will inoculate us from the man occupying the White House in the November election, forever.