Last week, I spent several days trolling around for former Peace Corps volunteers who had served with Chris Stevens in Morocco. The late US ambassador to Libya taught English as a Second Language from 1983-85 when he was a volunteer in Morocco. And I thought it would be intriguing to hear what elements of his Peace Corps experience influenced him as a diplomat. You can hear his very good friend Amie Bishop reflect on that in this story I produced for The World last week.
I also have been receiving follow-up emails from other volunteers who were in Morocco around the same time. None was as close to Chris as Amie. But one email from former volunteer Kerry Ingrao provided some nuance to the Peace Corps Morocco experience. Kerry gave me permission to excerpt from that message he sent me.
When I first heard (Chris) had been killed I immediately recognized the name and thought, ‘Peace Corps?’ But I just could not recall him, although I must have met him. What is so surprising to me is that I lived in Marrakesh and he was somewhere in the High Atlas – which is the Marrakesh region – where there were almost no volunteers serving. We few in that traditional walled city would have been the nearest to him geographically. I would add one interesting comment: I didn’t associate with Foreign Service types at all, who were typically very straight-laced and guarded – hid their selves/ identities from exposure by playing a discretion game. I was openly gay, (although modest, dignified, centered, and qualified to do my job), smoked hashish (mixed with Camel cigarette tobacco), and thought that as an actual American, I had no reason to hide what I was, for that did truly represent a real part of what America also was. Those who were interested in the Foreign Service were (or at least seemed to me then to be) ridiculous, cloak-and-dagger wannabees…like some 50’s Cold War caricatures. One or two of these in Marrakesh typically observed and reported my actions on a regular basis – and I knew this and did confront them from time to time. After my life and work there, watching the progressive Muslim/Western deterioration, I am almost glad I don’t remember Chris. I truly want to hope he understood how to mitigate the growing conflict, that some part of him cared. To accept such a dangerous assignment, he must have had some very strong motivation. Or had he become just another career diplomat climbing to the top of the fray?