Ellen Urbani’s dedication to stop Trump (Guatemala)

In an effort to speak truth to power in the way I am best able, I wrote and contributed a short personal essay to a movement called Dedicate Your No-Trump Vote. While this started as a collection of stories from Pulitzer Prize-winning and bestselling novelists, it quickly expanded to include not just writers but a military personnel, teachers, community activists, etc — all of whom are thinking beyond the individual and dedicating their votes as acts of hope for the future. 

If you’re inclined to share, my dedication is here: https://dedicateyournotrumpvote.blogspot.com/2016/10/ellen-urbanis-dedication.html  Though it often feels I’m preaching to the choir, I also know that every voice raised is a chance to potentially reach someone who may not yet have considered a particular perspective that might give him/her pause. Thank you, Ellen Urbani (Guatemala 1991-93)


Monday, October 3, 2016
Author Ellen Urbani

Author Ellen Urbani

When I was 23, I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guatemala, a country then battling its way through the last years of a decades-long civil war and genocide. In what is now an all-too-familiar enlistment ‘campaign,’ the army rode into town one day, kidnapping and conscripting young boys into military service. A neighbor raced to my threshold, moments ahead of the horde, and beat upon my door. “Take them,” she said, pushing her two sons into my arms. “Help them, please, for I cannot.”

So I did. I hid them in a piece of furniture moments before the military men forced their way into my home, and I withstood the interrogation not fifteen feet from where the children huddled because they stayed silent, as I’d told them to do when I closed the cupboard door on them with a finger pressed to my lips: “No matter what happens, you must be quiet and you must trust me; I will keep you safe.”

This I know: there is nothing special about me, no abundance of grace or courage I possess, that compelled my neighbor to my doorstep that day. In fact, barely five years earlier, finding myself unexpectedly in a crowd hurling racist slurs at a black woman in the American South, I had held tight to the masses, tacitly complicit, leaving that girl undefended against the hate hurled upon her by my peers. But for the fact that I learned so young the shame of failing to live up to one’s simplest expectations of oneself — but for the fact that I vowed at 18 that I would never again support tyranny with my silence — there was nothing that distinguished me in the mind of that Guatemalan woman seeking a savior for her sons but this: I am an American. That mother raced her children to me because, like so many other vulnerable people throughout history (and even despite our country’s voluminous missteps), she relied on this truism: when you are desperate, the Americans will help you.

I dedicate my no-Trump vote to every child forced to hide in a cupboard and every mother forced to turn to strangers for help, in the hope that the president we elect to power will never scoff at their pain or build a wall behind which he can hide from their need. With my no-Trump vote, I pledge not to ‘make American great again,’ but to ensure its greatest attributes — a willingness to defend the weakened, welcome the weary, and face our fears not with cowardice but with resolve — are advanced with unflagging civility and honor. My No-Trump vote says this: Knock, for our door will always open to you.


To Dedicate Your No-Trump Vote, Click Here

landfall-cover-final-web-sizedELLEN URBANI is the author of Landfall, set in the wake of Hurricane Katrina – a Women’s National Book Association Great Group Reads selection and winner of the Peace Corps Writers Maria Thomas fiction award – and the memoir When I Was Elena, a Book Sense Notable selection documenting her life in Guatemala during the final years of that country’s civil war. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Rumpus, numerous anthologies, and has been widely excerpted. A grief & trauma specialist, she’s served as a federal disaster consultant and her work has been profiled in the Oscar-qualified short documentary film Paint Me a Future. A Southern expat now residing in Oregon, her pets will always be dawgs and her truest allegiance will always reside with the Crimson Tide.



Leave a comment
  • With great admiration and respect for Ellen Urbani, I prefer to go with George Takei’s hashtag, #votebluenomatterwho, because I believe it’s crucial for people to understand that only a YES vote for Hillary will secure her win against Trump.

  • Hi Ellen, I was so moved by your story. Thank you for writing it for all! I, too, am a returned Peace Corps Volunteer from Ethiopia 1966-68. We are a very special group of people and I count myself lucky to be included in those whose impluse turns towards service and inclusion. We shall prevail! Yes for Hillary for me!

  • Ellen’s story about the children hiding in the pantry when the army storm her place is most compelling–and real as over 30,000 lost their lives during the period of violence in Guatemala. I’m encouraged by her message and the reminder that we all have some important decisions to make which will impact the direction and foreign policies of our own country.

  • Thank you, John, for sharing this by posting it here. I am so grateful to you for the way you give the RPCV community a forum for our thoughts and concerns. All the best to you, friend.

  • Brava, Ellen! and Bravo, John, for sharing this very inspiring essay with us. I’ll pass it on, too, as I imagine many RPCVs will.
    I’ll also share “Landfall” with my UN Women Book Club. I went to New Orleans twice to help rebuild houses in Treme, and my heart is so still there.

    Thank you for your wonderful words.

    Leita Kaldi Davis
    (Senegal 1993-96)

  • These are inspiring post and responses set against smear-campaigning running over us for years pilloring Hillary with Drumph (family name his grandfather like himself a draft-dodger changed to Trump) as the bandwagoneer over here leading the way Theresa “Maisie” May the baton-twirls in England joins as a hate duo straddling the Atlantic on a bike built for malevolent damage. We sure need some significant damage control.

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