Almost all of the volunteers there were young. They had BA degrees, and had an interest in other people. I knew no duds. I didn’t really know all of them, but we were all recognizable on the Big Island as Peace Corps because none of us had cars. There were many people on the island who gave us a ride and wanted to know all about us. This was before international flights came to Hilo. We could hitchhike around easily. Sometimes we hiked to town, and people always waved. With our volunteering, and with our friendships with our neighbors, we got to know more about the island than we otherwise would have, and so in time we got to see most of it.
I was a little slow on the uptake when it came to politics. I had always been a Democrat. My father and his father had also been one. But Hawaii didn’t have the disparities I would later see. Native people seemed pacified. And though we knew a little bit about how Hawaii had been acquired (some of us had read or would read Michener) we didn’t see the true Hawaiians as being among the oppressed.
I wanted Hubert Humphrey to become our president. The plan was that we should get out of Vietnam and then perhaps our country could get back to normal. But I didn’t really know what Humphrey stood for. All of that became a blur. Humphrey even drove by our training site. Somehow we knew he was coming; we stood out by the highway, and watched him go by. His motorcade even stopped, and he got out, but as I remember we didn’t get more involved in the election than that. I don’t think we voted. When I think about it I want to say we were just too busy. No one can be involved in everything. Nixon won. The war went on, and what I remember is that we sort of forgot about the war until we were slapped with it in the face because we ran into some demonstration somewhere or because our draft board came after us even though we were in the Peace Corps and far away from home.
It was a big mess, serving our country but yet have our country come after me to fight a war. I adored our country. I just didn’t understand why we were doing many of the things we were doing; I understood the principals of the Peace Corps and why my wife and I joined, but I also saw harm in what we were doing. Life hadn’t prepared me for the great gulf between people and the squabbles that created. I hated greed. I became even more critical than I was when I simply blamed my parents for their consumption. And the longer I stayed away the more alienated I felt. I decided I couldn’t condone the behavior of most Americans overseas. In that regard I became a snob. Yet I served out my term with the Peace Corps the best I could and from that perspective still criticized a storm that I couldn’t control.