Mary Pitt: What If…
by Mary Pitt
As I waited for Aunt Tildie to answer her door, I was feeling pangs of guilt for having neglected my regular schedule of calling on her. We speak daily by phone and she does have activities, but I hadn't actually seen her for some time. The need is mine rather than hers, for I find she does have a way of "picking me up"!
"Why, good morning, Child", she chirped cheerfully. "Come in and join me in a cup of tea!"
"Thank you", I responded, "I do hope I'm not interrupting your work."
She poured the tea, dropping in a cube of sugar and adding milk, (just the way I like it). "Not at all! I was just sitting here after watching the news, thinkin' and playin' 'What If'."
"What if what, Aunt Tildie? What was on the news that set you to thinking about how to solve the problems of the world?" (Now, I did not say that facetiously, for Aunt Tildie was well-known in her day and respected as a thinker and as a speaker. I have witnessed sessions in which she held an audience spell-bound and hungering for more of her brilliant problem-solving abilities. After a long and lustrous career, she had retired to this small prairie town and allowed her respected eloquence to lapse back into the local idiom in order to be accepted as "one of us".)
"I was watchin' the reports about the G8 Conference that's bein' held on what to do about Africa, and my mind went back in time for a moment. The quote of Robert Kennedy came to mind, 'Some see things as they are and say, "Why". I see things as they could be and say, "Why not"?' Well, I carried it one step further and asked, 'What if?"
Now I was really interested! This is a problem that affects the future of the whole world and I have seen no original thinking on the subject by any of the nations involved except to "spread capitalism" and to "establish democracies" which, in my opinion, is PC-speak for exploiting the natural resources and setting up puppet rulers who will do as we say. I knew that Aunt Tildie would have better ideas than mere platitudes and pie-in-the-sky.
Aunt Tildie carried on without a break, "What if the Peace Corps had not been allowed to wither on the vine? That was such a successful program, sending young people out into the world to help and to teach people in disadvantaged countries to improve their means of living by better farming methods, digging wells for clean water, establishing schools for the youngsters and training medical people to advance their health care.
"Soon older people were enrolling, too, retirees who had time and wanted to leave the world a better place. Even "Miss Lillian" Carter, the mother of our future President served a hitch with the Peace Corps and valued the experience the same as the ones who were younger do, as one of the most important in their lives. All those who volunteered loved their work and the people they helped loved them! In Africa, Southeast Asia, Central America and the Caribbean, the residents took those people to their hearts because they were willing to get right in and work with them instead of simply sending money and issuing orders. It was terrific!"
Then she proceeded to remind me, "The Peace Corps was started during the Kennedy years, continued through the Johnson administration, all through Nixon/Ford and, wherever these volunteers went, they created a love and admiration for the United States that went beyond diplomacy and international deals. No big money was doled out, very little was given by way of handouts. The people were simply taught and helped to learn how to do things so that they could improve their own lives.
"Now, I'm convinced that, if people can create a better life for themselves, they will be so busy carin' for their own families and their own property that they will not be signin' up for the corrupt armies of the petty satraps who would victimize the people. They would be plowin' their fields, buildin' new homes, and providin' for their families rather than ridin' around in the back of pickup trucks with machine guns, shootin' down other people just because they have been declared 'enemies'!
"And Lord, the money we're spendin' to kill all those Iraquis! We could have bought the whole country for the money we're payin' to blow 'em to hell! It would have been so much better to teach 'em to live better, to value human life and freedom, and, in their own time, to get rid of that tyrant who was takin' their very life's blood to promote his own personal ambitions."
"That's true," I offered, "We're seeing it here now, with young men who are NOT lining up to join the service because they are not convinced in the rightness of our reasons."
"Absolutely to the point! Americans have never been willin' to fight without a damned good reason, and if they don't have that reason, they stay home in droves!"
"You're so right, Aunt Tildie! But, what happened to the Peace Corps? Why are we not still maintaining such an excellent and highly effective program?"
"Oh, I suppose you could say the Congress happened. In the Reagan years, the accent was on spendin' less money and you know that when they say that, the money they reduce is always the funds that people really need. They never reduce spending on the military, or 'corporate welfare' or tax cuts for the rich. It's always the funding for the poor, the old, and the handicapped that gets their axe. I suppose it's because those people don't have big bucks to donate to political campaigns."
"Those administrations were all Republican. Why was it not refunded during the Clinton years?" I asked.
"Because Clinton was a Replicrat! That's what I call him because he didn't have the courage of his convictions! He was so afraid of Congress that he would find out what Congress wanted and then decide what he would suggest that they would accept. Even when he had a good idea, he wouldn't stand behind it and push it through. He rammed through the NAFTA idea which belonged to Bush and then he "reformed" welfare to the point that, now that it's needed in this Republican "prosperity", it just ain't there for the people who need it. In the long run, all he ever did that was good for the people was to get a balanced budget, and he did that on the backs of the poor and the disadvantaged!"
"But", I ventured, "why can't they understand that it really makes economic sense to make friends rather than to create enemies?"
"Well, I hate to say it, but that's just the way some warped minds work. They think that, so long as they have the power and the control of the money, they can buy friends when they need 'em and then, once they have helped us to whip our enemies, we can just whip them, too, and take over their countries as well. What if those greedy idiots would realize that, with programs like the Peace Corps, the poor nations could become strong trading partners and make their own contibutions to a world that is peaceful and prosperous for all. What if they ran the numbers and found out that it would cost less to help other nations grow and prosper than it does to kill the people and devastate their land ?"
"I love this game!" I cried, "What if we had given the inspectors time to complete their search for Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq and they had found nothing there?. We would have known that there was nothing to fear from Saddam and we could have concentrated on catching Bin Laden amd getting Afghanistan on the right track. Maybe that would have been a good place for your Peace Corp idea."
"Okay", said Aunt Tildie, "Now you're thinkin'! That would have made a whole different kettle of fish, wouln't it? Now, I know you have to drive to Topeka for that meeting, so you'll have lots of time to play the game while you drive."
"Aunt Tildie", I protested. "I seem to remember that you were not a particular supporter of the Kennedy brothers. Why do you recall them with such fondness today?"
Aunt Tildie fixed me with the same stare that she used to give me just before she whacked me upside my head, heaved a sigh of impatience at my ignorance and replied, "I was carried away by the fact that they were born stinkin' rich and looked like a coupe of Ken dolls! Thought they were a couple of fancy-pants like George W. and that Tony Blair, all lips and hips! But, in the long-range scheme of things, Kennedy was the last Democratic President. He was born rich but he had a feel for the needs of the people, all people, and he tried to meet them. No wonder "they" had to kill 'im! His thinking was dangerous to the capitalist system."
As I made my way to the door, I playfully tossed over my shoulder, "Aunt Tildie, in fifty years will you have changed your opinion of GW?"
The door closed on her angry response, "I ain't a-gonna live THAT long!"
Pitt is a septuagenarian Kansan who is self-employed and
active in the political arena. Her concerns are her
four-generation family and the continuance of the United
States as a democracy with a government "of the people, by
the people, and for the people". Comments and criticism may
be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org .