Beetle Bailey—the comic strip character who celebrates his sixtieth birthday this week—is my contemporary. At least in comic years. Difference is, I was born a baby and he was born a college student. A year later, he slumped into an Army recruiting office and signed up for the Korean War.
Beetle hasn’t aged a day over the years. (I’m on first name basis with him, you’ll notice, even though he doesn’t know I exist.) He’s just as lazy as he always was. And just as involved with his stereotypical friends (dumb blond Miss Buxley, for instance). I, on the other hand, have changed greatly.
While Beetle has been in the army through various wars and intervening peacetime, I have grown up, gone to college, taught school, and—most of all—written about life. The last half-dozen or so of my 36 books have been built around subjects involving social justice: the plight of women and girls in the most unforgiving areas of the world and what we can do for them. The blight of sex trafficking. Fiction and non-fiction built around of the long, seductive tentacles of slavery, both in the past and now.
During all those years Beetle spent loafing through one war after the other, I lived life. And I saw it, too—in India, China, Nepal, Sudan, Senegal, Indonesia, Cambodia, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria. It yanked me out of my blissful ignorance and changed me into a 21st century abolitionist.
In today’s comics, Beetle is sitting on a mountainside with Sarge, surveying the territory through binoculars. Sarge asks if he sees anything, and Beetle says he does. “I see happy children at play… people of all races working together… busy factories with no pollution…” Sarge cuts him off. “Wups!” Sarge says. “You got the rose-colored ones.”
I’m with you, Beetle. Not that I see the world through rose-colored glasses. I don’t. Not by a long shot. But I do look at it through eyes of persistent hope.
“Everything that is done in the world is done by hope.”