This is All that Karin McQuillan Has to Say (Senegal)
I emailed Karin McQuillan several days ago asking if she wanted to reply to the comments made on our site about her blog item that appeared on American Thinker blog as well as elsewhere. I wanted to find out if she had ETed or had been medically separated from the Peace Corps or been terminated from service by the agency. She wrote back this note to me after Marian Beil, the publisher of our site, removed information, at Karin’s request, that listed her home address as it appeared, as public record, in two NPCA Directories. Note: Jcoyne
Karin’s email to me.
Thanks, John. There are so many really nasty people on the web, I am quite concerned about having references to my personal information. (Karin is right about ‘nasty people’ just look at the tweets from the White House.)
As for your questions about my experience in the Peace Corps. I was in Senegal for a year from ’71-’72. I am not writing novels anymore.
Thanks for the offer to post a blog on why PCVs and RPCVs should support Trump, but I am going to decline. I don’t write to try and convince people politically, but to offer heart and a voice to fellow conservatives who think as I do. My column obviously resonated. Before the comments sections was closed, before it went viral, I received 100’s of grateful comments from RPCV’s, missionaries and vets, which was very affirmative.
One of my ongoing themes in writing on politics is the demonization of opposing points of view.
Thanks again for removing my contact info.
All the best,
One of the key people involved with our site, Joanne Roll (Colombia 1963-65), did a search of the comments made about Karin’s article on the conservative blog, American Thinker, where Karin’s item about Senegal first appeared. Joanne wrote me this Sunday morning:
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I think Ms McQuillan may be overlooking the fact that PCVs, like many missionaries, should not be assumed to be liberal. In fact, back in the early days one observer characterized us as “. . . politically slightly to the right of Dwight Eisenhower.”
As I recall, with respect to attitudes of early volunteers, esp concerning conditions in host countries, the categorical terms “Liberal” and “Conservative” hadn’t much meaning. How would one be liberal or conservative about fecal matter ? Or for that matter, is it necessarily liberal or conservative to care very much about host country peoples — or wishing them to remain culturally as they are.
Around the Great American West, after nearly a century of US Gov’t boarding school policy, whose purpose was to aggressively deculturate indians, and make them (presumably for their own good), into little imitation white people, we today still wrestle with what really is best for them in the world as it exists TODAY, either as individuals or as a group — simply by asking them, and thoughtfully discussing. “Liberal’ does not necessarily equate with “Thoughtful” or “Caring”. As a child, i still remember the radio messages from Window Rock, first in Navajo, then in English, urging boarding school students, in the Wintertime, not to run away from school for home, and risk dying of exposure. Was this “Liberalism” or “Conservatism” ?
I personally think Ms McQuillan’s brief response, is something of a cop-out.
John Turnbull Ghana-3 Geology and Nyasaland/Malawi-2 Geology Assignment 1963, -64, -65
I really appreciate and value the thoughtful clarity of your comments, John. Labeling humane values (or insensitive positions) as “liberal” or “conservative” can lead us very far astray and it’s stabilizing to read your insightful and historically astute commentary.
Thanks, John, for pursuing the contact with Karin McQuillan. I guess her original blog was not ‘fake news’ as I had suspected. But I remain surprised by the lack of empathy and cultural understanding by a former Volunteer. I don’t know, does a shortened one-year stint qualify for RPCV status? Is that really a photo of her property and home? I didn’t see many paved roads nearby, so maybe, Niger, she’s not as privileged as it would appear. David
Shut up, hippie
Jackson Hole, Wyoming is a beautiful ski area and home to many weathly people. I know nothing of McQuillan.
But, the absence of roads in some of our Rocky Mountain towns just means people are flying in via private plane!!
Well, that’s what those rascals in Senegal and Niger should do . . . fly instead of drive. Jackson Hole is indeed lovely country. The last time we were there, they were having a tough time retaining teachers, librarians and other essential employees because they couldn’t afford to live in such a sweet place. David
McQuillan was a one year quitter and has no credibility. “The American Thinker” who published her article has none either.
I am also an RPCV. I didn’t quit. I was even asked by an official of another government who had already cleared it with my PC boss if I would stay a third year as my success at what I did was internationally recognized.
I agree with Karin’s general thesis.
Sorry if the truth offends you.
BTW, “The American Thinker” [sic] is not a person (who).
You made my day.
May I humbly twist your observation? I think someone who has lived a full year at a place and is not able to make valid observations has no credibility..
I do not know Ms McQuilan from my own Peace Corps Days in Senegal: 1968-1971.( I extended my stay for one year and worked in a social center setting inThies and Rufisque. ) Usually PC Volunteers knew each other if they were in the same program. I am married to a Senegalese for almost 50 years and have 3 beautiful children and 4 great grandkids who are all presently living in Senegal. I find her article very disturbing and outrageous:
she had a great time: “euphoric ” as she states while a volunteer . Why? Because Senegalese are hospitable, tolerant generous and accept the foreign volunteers. Karin obviously took from this country a terrific experience and gave back a very derogatory article which someone responded saying it was an “American” perspective: this is Karin’s perspective! I am American and this is not an American perspctive! Ask the additional 800 American families who moved to Dakar over the last few years to work in USAID, American Embassy, private companies, etc. Do they think it is that type of country she describes? Does she hink the US gov’t would send families here if they thought it was so bad?
I would like to know where she was a volunteer in Senegal. We know she was here from ’71 to ’72 but know nothing about what she did. What did she do? Taught English? Worked in rural development? What did she do to improve this so-called situation in her village ? Did she go back to Senegal? How often? Has she been here this last year? Seen the new airort? the new highway to that airport? The Monument of La Renaissance africaine? Goree? Does she really know how things have evolved in Senegal since 46 years ago?!? Does she speak French or wolof to get to know and understand people? If she’s a writer, then she needs to get generalized facts and then update them. When was she last in Senegal? If she does plan a trip here, I would even show her around and have her meet some people in the government and some of our very well educated and sophisticated and hardworking friends. Maybe she will update her article.
I think if the government of Senegal saw this facebook note she wrote about Senegal, they would be highly offended as would my husband, kids and grandkids!!! The picture portrayed is skewed to make a point!
I am so surprised by her article as a Peace Corps volunteer. If she is trying to make a point for Trump, there are many holes in her argument. Visit Senegal this year !
I am not being nasty. I am simply having an opposing view (which you say you are open to), a view which is from 2018 – not 1972- I am presently in Senegal and having lived and worked in Senegal with Peace Corps, USAID , the gov’t of Senegal and my own private company and Nonprofit.
I am sure Peace Corps Senegal and Peace Corps Washington would be surprised by the substance of this article.
Hello. I was also disturbed by Ms. McQuillan’s description of Senegal. I recently taught in Senegal this past Spring and last year as well. There is absolutely no comparison to the big hearted Senegalese people! I felt more comfortable and welcomed there than I do in many environments here in the States. I was in the cities of Thies, Joal-Fadiouth and Dakar. Loved it. My Senegalese students valued my teaching and were always willing to work hard. Ms. McQuillan’s views are definitely one sided and I agree – she should revisit Senegal. I can’t wait to return.
The author agreed they were big hearted and the place was safe.
There is not a sentence in the author’s description of her experiences in which she insults the Senegalese.. She made points which are worth some consideration and it is a grave mistake to make a political issue of something which belongs into a totally different category.. By the way Bill Gates was worried about the very same problems and spent a fortune on building toilettes where there were none before. The problem is not really all that novel–, as far as historical times are concerned it was not so very long ago when Europe was struggling with the very same problem– the absence of toilettes.
It would be helpful if you would state your qualifications for your statements. Do you understand the woman was in Senegal almost fifty years ago? Peace Corps Volunteers are invited into countries. Guest do not criticize their hosts.
PCVs, of course, have been building latrines and working to establlish safe water supplies for over fifty years.
And what “totally different category” would you place her remarks which were made in a political magazine?
I don’t view her comments as criticism. She merely pointed out experiences that demonstrate the differences between Western cultural norms and cultural norms in Senegal. She didn’t disparage the people or the country. She stated facts as she experienced them. I see lots of comments from others who have been there. While most are critical of the author, they don’t dispute any specific observations she makes. The overwhelming impression I take away is that people whose cultural and societal norms are not compatible with American norms should not be expected to assimilate easily. And failure to assimilate often necessitates changes to the new environment to make allowances for the foreign normalcies. Can we tolerate those changes and still remain the country that drew them here in the first place?
What parts of the article do you find inaccurate? Some of the things might be offensive from a western perspective, but perhaps not from an average Senegalese perspective. What is, is.
This is a general reply to Adam. Sandra McDowell and Judieth Petres Balogh. None have provided the credentials or the experience from which to show the basis for their comments. I don’t know who rung the bell and Karen Mc!Quillan and her article headlined “Trump was Right” (“Senegal is a sh#thole”) is once again on center stage.
Most important fact about McQuillan: She was in Senegal almost fifty years ago and her experiences are from that time, She neglected to stress this fact.
Here is general information about Senegal from Wikipedia: Senegal was colonized by various European powers from the mid-1400s to 1960, when it achieved independence peacefully from France.
How do you think the Senegalese coped during 500 years of being enslaved by European countries? i would presume family and extended families were the basis of survival under colonial opprestion and the behavior she saw reflected that fact. Go to the Peace Corps’ offical website and put Senegal in the question box. Look at the stories page and read a current account of life in a health clinic in Senegal.”Using Data to drive change in the health sector”;.very different from the dismal picture painted by McQuillan fifty years ago.
From Wikipedia: “Currently, Senegal has a quasi-democratic political culture, one of the more successful post-colonial democratic transitions in Africa.”
To Balogh: This is what McQuillan wrote in the above interview: “I don’t write to try and convince people politically, but to offer heart and a voice to fellow conservatives who think as I do.” She is speaking to those who agree with her politically. So, this is absolutely a political commentary.
To McDowell: This is what McQuillan wrote in her original article: “In Senegal, corruption ruled, from top to bottom.” and “The more I worked there and visited government officials doing absolutely nothing, the more I realized that no one in Senegal had the idea that a job means work.” This is criticism of the people of Senegal.
To Adam: It is impossible to go bac fifty years to correct McQillan. She lived in one village for one year (Peace Corps service is for two years, she left after one) and we do not have a time machine to go back. Sorry. What is, really is.
Thank you. I was so glad to read your perspective as a RPCV from Senegal. Karin McQuillan’s comments are taken from an article she wrote for the American Thinker. I googled her name and found this link to the article:
She also is an author of mystery books with an African setting. She gave an interview which was posted on her Amazon page. The interview may answer some of the questions you have about her service.
Here is the link, on the left side of the page: https://www.amazon.com/Karin-McQuillan/e/B00IQT52I2/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1517607586&sr=1-2-ent
I am so confused. The links you post lead to two completely different people. What? Any thoughts about that total disconnect? Has this political environment poisoned people’s memories? I don’t get it.
Thanks for tracking this down. A mystery.
Individuals can be both heroes and something I don’t understand, even ever, as I remain glad for the good I recall & sorry for the flipflopping to a kind of meanness that happened. You?
This poem by C K Williams says to me to listen
The way boxers postulate a feeling to label that with which they overcome
the body’s vile fears,
its wish to flinch, to flee, break and run . . . they call it anger, pride,
the primal passion to prevail;
the way, before they start, they glare at one another, try to turn themselves
to snarling beasts . . .
so we first make up something in the soul we name and offer credence
to—”meaning,” “purpose,” “end”—
and then we cast ourselves into the conflict, turn upon our souls, snarl
like snarling beasts . . .
And the way the fighters fight, coolly until their strength fails, then desperately,
wildly, as in a dream,
and the way, done, they fall into one another’s arms, almost sobbing with
relief, sobbing with relief:
so we contend so we wish to finish, wish to cry and end, but we never
cry, never end, as in a dream.
from Selected Poems
Harper Collins, 1994
Thank you. I am a woman, but I know how anger can cover up fear.
As always. Edward, you have a gift for finding the right words.
All ths week, in particular, I found myself saying “we all have to be turtles” remembering the poem you posted for us.
As far as I can determine, the Karin McQuillan who wrote the column in American Thinker and the Karin McQuillan who wrote the mystery series for sale on Amazon and posted the interview on Amazon are one and the same person. AS for what I think is the disconnect between the two perspectives, I have no clue.
First, I think it is lovely that from her “euphoric” Peace Corp experience that she “loves and treasures” our country. That’s precisely what living abroad is all about – putting your life in a more global perspective.
But coming to her conclusions takes some outrageous contortions- particularly as she appears to base all of her conclusions on her experiences 47 years ago. In the 10 years I’ve been coming to Senegal ( as a social entrepreneur and as a film producer for the highly acclaimed film Tall as the Baobab Tree) the changes have been visible and dramatic!
And this is happening in a country that only gained its independence 58 years ago! At that point in American’s history we were immersed in the bloodiest chapters in American history.
In comparison, during Senegal’s short history it has earned the reputation of the region’s safest and stable countries and long held traditions such as early marriage and FGM (female genital mutilation)for a minority (though significant enough) number of young girls are ending without the blood and core of our Civil War.
Is the Senegalese reality different from ours? Of course.
This is a developing country and if they can’t pay – they do die. (But then, our wealthy country has callously created thousands of uninsured citizens and we have a political system that is currently dismantling our first attempts at universal health care.) This fact is a large factor in what makes the Senegalese ideas about family so different than ours. Their extended family is their safety network – a network that is needed in a poor country such as this.
One earns money to help family who will, in turn, help you if you need it. Of course, this dilutes what any one person might retain and it does indeed translate into an overall greater distribution of money amongst more people. But is the USA’s current distorted gap between 1% and everyone else a clear improvement?
There have been many observations about the impact of international aid so the writer’s observation that “African problems are made worse by our efforts” is not patently outrageous. as many would agree. But what the writer conveniently ignores is that Senegal is France’s # 1 trading partner providing an enormous market for French goods and services and Francophone literature and media. A very profitable market relationship conveniently tied to France’s foreign aid agreements with Senegal and one that many economists have argued is to Senegal’s detriment.
The writers’ argument about defending our heritage is curious as our history books clearly reveal that much of our heritage was built on the backs of slaves coming from West Africa. And, as international migration has arguably become the model of social advancement, the USA reaps the benefits of the smartest and most capable of Senegalese and African society whose success and contributions to the USA are well documented. This writer’s 47 year old evidence defends us from …what?
Everyone who views Senegal favorably has a government job. Is this significant?
Your statement, ”
“Everyone who views Senegal favorably has a government job,” is inaccurate. You are wrong. Most of the comments are from Americans who served in the Peace Corps. Peace Corps Volunteers are not government employees and only serve for two years. Their comments come after their service. The term RPCV means Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. It is a self- identify term to show we had served as Volunteers, at one time. It has no official consequence.
It would be interesting to know your background. Would you care to share? Thank you
I apologize for not posting this statement from Peace Corps World Wide. It can be found on the web site, if you click on “About”.
“All work done for Peace Corps Worldwide is volunteer, and the site is in no way associated with the Peace Corps or the National Peace Corps Association.”
I hope you understand, now, that no one posting here is a “government employee”
All she was saying is that fecal matter is in the very dirt. And that the habits carry over into American culture.
30+ years an counting in Mexico and bordering states. I love mexico, *I married into Mexico/with children and the language* I love the border states sans one, and am quite fond of the quickness with which the largely roman catholic people adapt to using good plumbing. Sadly in past decade or so an influx of Nigerian/Congolese and Iraqi refugees to my home city in a border state has seen a corresponding uptick in disease outbreaks. I detest everything political, as politicians never actually care about people.
I cannot however deny that statements regarding disgusting behavior is wrong.
Maybe the ner’do wells here can work to teach immigrants how to be cleaner? And maybe help recent immigrants adapt and improve?
Coming from a, what may be called a “second world” country, Romania, I can understand a few things lived first hand. I grew up in the ’50s there and we had no running water, plumbing, or electricity. There was no A/C or even electricity in our house until the ’60. We had to use the outhouse summer or winter! Our mom worked hard as a slave (?), to keep us as clean as it was possible and fed us with very poor food. We did not have any PCV to help us in any way. What intrigues the most from people contesting Karin McQuillan, or even belittling her for telling what she saw there, especially the volunteers seeing such a “rose” place there now, is why do they come back to this “awful” country anymore! And then, why so many people from the entire world want to come here?
Peace Corps Volunteers are invited into countries to offer their services to help with problems identified by people in that host country. My opinion is McQuillan imore than 40 years after leaving Senegal,used her experience to underwrite the statements from a president who had never been to Africa and who launched an attack on countries in Africa for reasons I still do not undestand. McQuillian made a political statement. McQuillan’s glowing accounts of Africa when she was promoting her books is in direct contradiction from her comments when she was promoting a political agenda.
I did not understand this sentence of yours;
“What intrigues the most from people contesting Karin McQuillan, or even belittling her for telling what she saw there, especially the volunteers seeing such a “rose” place there now, is why do they come back to this “awful” country anymore! And then, why so many people from the entire world want to come here?”
I don’t know to what “rose” place refers or then why do you ask why so many people from the entire world want to come here? I presume “here” means the United States.
My grandparents came to the United States from what is now Slovakia. My grandmother hated war and hoped this country would be a peaceful place to raise her children. It was. My father and his brothers lived on a farm in upstate New York and did not ever have indoor plumbing, electricity or water in the house. My grandmother believed in education and helped my father leave home when he graduated from high school to accept a full scholarlship to an Ivy League school. My grandparents have over hundred grandchildren, great grandchildren and I think one great, great grandchild. Among this crowd are lawyers, teachers, police officers, artists, writers and many who have served their country in the military and yes, in the Peace Corps. We all honor our grandparents, especiallty my grandmother who had the courage at the age of 17 to leave everything she knew and get on a boat for American. I think this is why people come to this country.
Returning to and honoring my own past and that of those who shared my years entering the Peace Corps in 1961,
I think of Hoagy Carmichel’s and Mitchell Parish’s last line in their 1929 song standard STARDUST:
“Love is now the stardust of yesterday, the music of the years gone by”
to explain how re-viewing can end up wrapped in a helix-like hornets’ nest swinging a rosy glow or a snarky can of worms. .
The Age Of ‘The Age Of Innocence’ by Elif Batuman in The New York Times: 2 Nov 2019:
“….A literary “classic” is a recurring character in one’s life. One reads it, years go by, one reads it again, and it becomes the sum of those readings over time.
One identifies with the character closest to one in age — and then one’s age changes.
Eventually, each classic tells two stories: its own, and the story of all the times one has read it.
In a way, in “The Age of Innocence,” Edith Wharton wrote an allegory of this very process: of the way stories acquire new meanings over time
Like most novels, “The Age of Innocence” offers a version of its author’s biography. Newland Archer, the central character, is, like Wharton herself,
SOMEONE WHO HAS LIVED LONG ENOUGH TO SEE THE IDEALS OF HIS YOU BECOME OUTDATED….”
Thanks to Karin for insightful observations. Explains a lot.
Even if Karin McQuillen’s article evoked some political leanings, there are good bits of her article that could and should be taken as a social ethnography of Senegal at the time she was there even if it was for one year. Someone in this thread talked about the Native Americans who were taken away from their families and put in boarding schools to try to make them become more like “White” America. Most people I know today see that as wrong. It is however in the nature of man, who is essentially ego and culturally centric to want strangers to be more like them. What I took away from Ms. McQuillen’s article was western society (Americans) take their ego/cultural centric biases with them to other cultures and judge that society based on their own cultural folkways and mores and, in her case, if a large percentage of that culture she was a PCV in was encouraged to come to America, they would soon establish their own ego/cultural centric ways in America which would not be considered a positive event in most cases.