I added a new tab in this blog for Love Letters to Congress and Other Notes. I will try to update the page as I am able with appropriate selections. But I hope somebody out there will volunteer to curate the online collection and give it the attention it deserves, a sort of an oral history, the blog edition for the Foreign Service.
I must add that I have now gotten off this joy ride to nowhere — for real — so whatever Congress do to the locality pay will have no effect on my household income. But I still look at this as a fairness issue for those who remains in the Service. I just hope you all don’t get get stuck in the OCP fight. If you are a member of the FS community, your main mission if you decide to accept it — ta-da! –is to to help educate Congress and the American public about your work and your life abroad in the service of this country. Congress is not the enemy, ignorance is.
The U.S. State Department as an organization has never been good at explaining its work to Congress and the American people. You don’t believe me? Ask your neighbors what they know about Foreign Service Officers, and they’d probably ask which foreign country these officers serve. If you tell them, the United States of America, they’d probably ask if these officers are, you know … real Americans, being foreign and all. And those who are able to identify them as American diplomats would inevitably bring up the words, “pinstriped, cookie pushers,” “cocktails”, “elite” and most recently, of course, “voluptuous blond” and “WikiLeaks.” To others they are nothing more than visa stampers and passport shufflers. A good number of the American public who travel overseas have no reason to see them at US embassies or consulate unless they have lost their passports, marry or adopt a foreigner, lands in the foreign hospital or jail, survives a plane crash, is a victim of crime, is evacuated, or in a host of other emergency crises abroad.
It is a sad truth but the American public know diddly squat about the work diplomats do overseas. You are in Iraq for a year, and what exactly it is you do there? You drone on, and the public switches their teevee to American Idol.You will hear officials insisting that State is full of really smart, really talented people. But you just have to take their word for it because the officers themselves, smart as they are, are not allowed to have their own opinions or tell their stories. Even in their private capacity.
What? Like we’re afraid FSOs would wikileaked themselves in their blogs? C’mon, now, as the kids say, that is so lame. Diplomats back from overseas are allowed to do gigs called hometown diplomat or something, but who the heck has heard of those?
21st century diplomacy, anyone? Why, of course, that seems popular these days. In real life, this is what it means:
I saw this blog post from an FSO codenamed, Diplochick. She presents us with a new acronym — “BNA” for “blogs not allowed” and writes:
“So I’m taking down this site – or at least changing the topic of the blog forever more. Maybe i’ll write about gardening or baking…
I love blogging about our crazy new adventure, but the word about town is that Big Brother does not like it at all. Now I could rise up and rebel, but I’m chicken.”
Still, that’s one less “live” connection between the institution and the public.
She’s not the first, and she won’t be the last.
Telling the story of the Foreign Service is not an easy thing. You walk that fine line of either coming across as too whiny or as too bland if you’ve got nothing else to blog but brown grass in your backyard due to drought. A good thing that the FS has some talented writers who are able to straddle the fine line. May your ranks multiply.
Check out my Love Letters to Congress and Other Notes here.