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Page 30
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I Dream of Alternate Histories (poem)

By W. D. Ehrhart

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Just imagine if Woodrow Wilson had met with Ho Chi Minh at Versailles in nineteen nineteen, decided Ho was right, and told the French, "I told the world, 'Self-determination.' Not just for whites; for everyone; I'm going to keep my word."

Or what if Roosevelt had lived. FDR,
who said the French had ruled in Vietnam
for eighty years and only left its people
worse off now than when they first arrived.
What would FDR have done when Ho
declared his country independent?

But Harry Truman got the nod instead,
and authorized the use of US ships
to ship French soldiers back to Vietnam
to wage an eight-year war against a people
who had had enough of vive la France.
What if Harry S had told the French to swim?

Or what if, after Dien Bien Phu had fallen
and the French had had enough of Vietnam,
Eisenhower had ordered Foster Dulles
to agree the Maryknolls could keep Diem,
the Virgin Mary wasn't coming south,
and Ho Chi Minh could have his country.

Imagine John F. Kennedy in August
nineteen sixty-three, hearing of the raids
on Buddhist temples by the Saigon
thugs of Ngo Dinh Nhu, had said, "That's it.
These clowns are hopeless. Let's go home
and cut our losses while we can."

Or good old LBJ. What if he,
confronted with a much-provoked attack
on US warships in the Tonkin Gulf,
had had a revelation: "No more lies!
Let's build a Great Society at home
and export that instead of wars."

And then there's Richard Milhous Nixon.
Dick who promised Peace with Honor,
gave us Watergate instead. What if
Eisenhower had dumped him? What if he'd
been stoned to death in Venezuela
back in nineteen fifty-eight?

—W. D. Ehrhart

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