A man stopped me on the street in Manhattan the other day and asked me to sign a petition.
"What's it for?" I asked him.
"We want to change the name of the Bronx to El Salvador."
"Why El Salvador?"
"We figure if we change our name we can get as much economic aid as El Salvador is getting. We worked it out that what Reagan is cutting out of the budget for the Bronx comes to exactly what he is putting into El Salvador."
"My good man," I said, "you can't compare El Salvador to the Bronx."
"You ever been there?" the man asked.
"To El Salvador?"
"No, to the Bronx. We're the same size as El Salvador and we got as many problems as they do."
"But, sir," I said, trying not to get the many angry. "El Salvador is being threatened by 10,000 guerrillas."
"We got more than that in the Bronx. It's safer to walk in the jungles of El Salvador at night than it is in the parks of the Bronx."
"But your people get your arms right here in the United States. The guerrillas in El Salvador are being supplied by the Russians and the Cubans. That's why we're giving El Salvador aid and taking it away from you.
"I'm not too sure I follow that," the man said. "You mean just because our guerrillas in the Bronx can get any arms they want, right in this country, we're not entitled to American aid?"
"That's correct. The $100 million is not aid for El Salvador, but a message to Russia and Cuba to keep their hands off Central America."
"Well, why can't the people in Washington give us $100 million so it will be a message to the Soviets to keep their hands off the Bronx?"
Because the Russians don't want the Bronx."
"They've seen it on television."
"That's why I want you to sign the petition, man. If we can change the name of the Bronx to El Salvador, maybe they'll want it, and then we'll get some of that money they're throwing at the people down there."
"I don't believe the Russians can be that easily fooled."
"I know they can't, but I figure the people in Washington can be. Hell, I don't think there's a dozen people in the capital who know where El Salvador is."
"I think you would be better off, instead of changing your name to another country, if you change it to a new weapons system," I said.
"What are you talking about?"
"If you called the Bronx 'the MX Missile System,' I could get you $30 billion, with no question asked."
"That's a lousy name for a borough."
"It doesn't matter. The only real money that's going to be spent in this country for the next four years is going to be for armaments. If you have a sexy military name, you'll get all the money you want."
"Do we have to put the system in the Bronx?"
"It would be nice if you did. Everyone wants the U.S. to have an MX system, but no one wants it in their own back yard. If the bronx offered to put it there, the military would be very grateful to you, and reward you handsomely."
"So you think that's a better deal than changing our name to El Salvador?"
"I really do," I told him. "Giving El Salvador $100 million would be a one-shot thing. But they're going to have to pour money into an MX missile system forever."