Kurt Vonnegut vs. the !&#*!@

Ralph Johansen michele at maui.net
Fri Jan 31 14:39:52 MST 2003

Kurt Vonnegut vs. the !&#*!@

By Joel Bleifuss | 1.27.03

In November, Kurt Vonnegut turned 80. He published his first novel,
Player Piano, in 1952 at the age of 29. Since then he has written 13
others, including Slaughterhouse Five, which stands as one of the pre-
eminent anti-war novels of the 20th century.
As war against Iraq looms, I asked Vonnegut, a reader and supporter
of this magazine, to weigh in. Vonnegut is an American socialist in the
tradition of Eugene Victor Debs, a fellow Hoosier whom he likes to
quote: “As long as there is a lower class, I am in it. As long as there is
a criminal element, I am of it. As long as there is a soul in prison, I am
not free.”

—Joel Bleifuss

You have lived through World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Reagan
wars, Desert Storm, the Balkan wars and now this coming war in
Iraq. What has changed, and what has remained the same?

One thing which has not changed is that none of us, no matter what
continent or island or ice cap, asked to be born in the first place, and
that even somebody as old as I am, which is 80, only just got here.
There were already all these games going on when I got here. … An
apt motto for any polity anywhere, to put on its state seal or currency
or whatever, might be this quotation from the late baseball manager
Casey Stengel, who was addressing a team of losing professional
athletes: “Can’t anybody here play this game?”

My daughter Lily, for an example close to home, who has just turned
20, finds herself—as does George W. Bush, himself a kid—an heir to
a shockingly recent history of human slavery, to an AIDS epidemic
and to nuclear submarines slumbering on the floors of fjords in Iceland
and elsewhere, crews prepared at a moment’s notice to turn industrial
quantities of men, women and children into radioactive soot and bone
meal by means of rockets and H-bomb warheads. And to the choice
between liberalism or conservatism and on and on.

What is radically new in 2003 is that my daughter, along with our
president and Saddam Hussein and on and on, has inherited
technologies whose byproducts, whether in war or peace, are rapidly
destroying the whole planet as a breathable, drinkable system for
supporting life of any kind. Human beings, past and present, have
trashed the joint.

Based on what you’ve read and seen in the media, what is not being
said in the mainstream press about President Bush’s policies and the
impending war in Iraq?

That they are nonsense.

My feeling from talking to readers and friends is that many people are
beginning to despair. Do you think that we’ve lost reason to hope?

I myself feel that our country, for whose Constitution I fought in a just
war, might as well have been invaded by Martians and body
snatchers. Sometimes I wish it had been. What has happened, though,
is that it has been taken over by means of the sleaziest, low-comedy,
Keystone Cops-style coup d’etat imaginable. And those now in
charge of the federal government are upper-crust C-students who
know no history or geography, plus not-so-closeted white
supremacists, aka “Christians,” and plus, most frighteningly,
psychopathic personalities, or “PPs.”
Full text at http://inthesetimes.com/comments.php?id=38_0_4_0_C

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