God Bless You, Kurt Vonnegut
I've just finished reading the latest book by one of my all-time favorite authors: A Man Without a Country, by Kurt Vonnegut.
Not that it's much of a book. More like a cross between a collection of essays and the ranting of an angry old man. It's only 145 pages, with wide margins and lots of space between lines. And pictures; entire pages with handwritten quotes; some graphs. All the strategies I'd use if I wanted to publish a book but didn't have quite enough material to make it look like a legitimate book.
That said, it's wonderful! It's pithy; it's too the point; it's funny as hell. In a word -- vintage Vonnegut. This from someone who's read almost everything he's ever written, from Slaughterhouse Five as a kid at camp, through the short story collection Welcome to the Monkey House, all the way up to Time Quake a few years ago. If Vonnegut were to die tomorrow, which he claims to wish he would:
I am going to sue the Brown & Williamson Tobacco Company, manufacturers of Pall Mall cigarettes, for a billion bucks! Starting when I was only twelve years old, I have never chain-smoked anything but unfiltered Pall Malls. And for many years now, right on the package, Brown and Williamson have promised to kill me.this book would make a most satisfactory obituary.
But I am now eighty-two. Thanks a lot, you dirty rats. The last thing I ever wanted was to be alive when the three most powerful people on the whole planet would be named Bush, Dick and Colon.
The main thing about Vonnegut as a writer, though, is that once I read him I realize that he has already said what needs to be said so thoroughly and so elegantly that there's really nothing else to say. Least of all by little old moi. Regarding the Dark Ages into which I see this country slipping so inexorably, as I try to rant and rave and explain, Vonnegut says this:
In case you haven't noticed, as the result of a shamelessly rigged election in Florida, in which thousands of African Americans were arbitrarily disenfranchised, we now present ourselves to the rest of the world as proud, grinning, jut-jawed, pitiless war-lovers with appallingly powerful weaponry -- who stand unopposed.And he goes on:
In case you haven't noticed, we are now as feared and hated all over the world as the Nazis once were.
And with good reason.
In case you haven't noticed, our unelected leaders have dehumanized millions and millions of human beings simply because of their religion and race. We wound 'em and kill 'em and torture 'em and imprison 'em all we want.
Piece of cake.
In case you haven't noticed,we also dehumanized our own soldiers, not because of their religion or race, but because of their low social class.
Send 'em anywhere. Make 'em do anything.
Piece of cake.
The O'Reilly Factor.
So I am a man without a country, except for the librarians and a Chicago paper called In These Times.
My last words? "Life is no way to treat an animal, not even a mouse.What else is there to say? Except of course, God Bless you, Kurt Vonnegut!
Napalm came from Harvard. Veritas!
Our president is a Christian? So was Adolf Hitler.
What can be said to our young people, now that psychopathic personalities, which is to say persons without consciences, without senses of pity or shame, have taken all the money in the treasuries of our government and corporations, and made it all their own?