"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."
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