Last Reviewed on February 13, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1065
Chapter 9: Everyone Has Ears
Gilbert MacWhite, the new ambassador to Sarkhan, is “competent, exact, and highly efficient”; he has prepared for his assignment by learning Sarkhan’s language, culture, and internal politics. Within months, MacWhite creates a detailed plan to reduce Communism’s influence in Sarkhan, a plan he regards as a major personal achievement. Even though MacWhite outwardly displays modesty in all things, he has a strong ego and believes his plan to defeat Communism in Sarkhan will be considered the high point of his ambassadorial career. During his preparations, he meets to discuss his plan with an old friend, Li Pang, who is an advisor to Chiang Kai-Shek.
As the two friends discuss MacWhite’s plan, Li suddenly becomes angry and calls MacWhite “a great fool.” Li realizes that they have been discussing this highly-secret plan while two of MacWhite’s servants, both Chinese, are listening. MacWhite assures Li that the servants, Donald and Roger, are intensely loyal and speak only rudimentary English. After a series of questions and answers between Li and Donald, Li traps Donald into admitting that he speaks English. Donald also acknowledges that he has been spying on MacWhite for the Chinese Communists, who have threatened Donald’s family in China if he fails to supply useful information. MacWhite, shocked by his servant’s betrayal, is even more devastated by his own lapse of judgment. He realizes that many months and millions of dollars have been wasted and decides that he must learn as much as possible about Communist intelligence-gathering methods. He asks the State Department for permission to visit the Philippines and Vietnam to study how those countries deal with Communist ideology and tactics.
In the Philippines, MacWhite meets with Ramon Magsaysay, the Minister of Defense. Magsaysay, who goes on to serve as the Philippine president, tells MacWhite that the most effective Americans in foreign service are not bureaucrats but those who use their technical knowledge to benefit the common people and learn their concerns firsthand. Magsaysay recommends that MacWhite seek out an American Air Force colonel named Hillandale, known in the Philippines as the Ragtime Kid.
Chapter 10: The Ragtime Kid
Edwin B. Hillandale, a US Air Force liaison officer, became fascinated by Filipino culture and language after being stationed there in 1952. Since then, he has become an advisor to Ramon Magsaysay, now a presidential candidate. Although Magsaysay is popular in most provinces, in one province the Communists have persuaded the people that Magsaysay, because he associates with Americans, does not fully understand or care about Philippine’s problems.
Hillandale visits the largest city in the province, Cuenco, and rides into the city on a red motorcycle with the name “The Ragtime Kid” on the gas tank. He immediately sits on a street curb, pulls out a harmonica, and begins playing popular Filipino tunes, including “Planting Rice is Never Fun,” a popular song among the working class. After his impromptu concert, Hillandale asks to be invited to lunch because he has no money, and the Filipinos are incredulous that an American officer is penniless. Hillandale uses the crowd’s skepticism to begin a dialogue about their conceptions of Americans.
The crowd, believing all Americans are rich, simply doesn’t believe Hillandale can be as broke as he claims to be, so he shows them an empty wallet and begins to tell them of his everyday living expenses in the United States. Hillandale uses the cost of housing, food, and liquor to show the crowd that his salary is not much different from their salaries in buying power. He manages to change the crowd’s perception of the average American. Convinced that Hillandale struggles as they do to...
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