Vonnegut on our Current Times

I fear the day when we will no longer have Kurt Vonnegut around to cast his cynical eye on current events and lets us know how it looks through his jaundice colored lenses. Case in point: this essay entitled “Cold Turkey”. It’s hard to limit myself to tasty bits to quote because the whole thing is so good and so in line with my own feelings. Here’s one bit:

Eugene Debs, who died back in 1926, when I was only 4, ran 5 times as the Socialist Party candidate for president, winning 900,000 votes, 6 percent of the popular vote, in 1912, if you can imagine such a ballot. He had this to say while campaigning:

As long as there is a lower class, I am in it.

As long as there is a criminal element, I’m of it.
As long as there is a soul in prison, I am not free.

Doesn’t anything socialistic make you want to throw up? Like great public schools or health insurance for all?

How about Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes?

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. …

And so on.

Not exactly planks in a Republican platform. Not exactly Donald Rumsfeld or Dick Cheney stuff.

For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes. But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere.

“Blessed are the merciful” in a courtroom? “Blessed are the peacemakers” in the Pentagon? Give me a break!

“For some reason, the most vocal christians among us never mention the beattitudes.” That sentence by itself says volumes. I long for the day when I hear of christian activists supporting a cause that bears any resemblance to something Jesus did or said, rather than working themselves up into a lather on issues that Christ was silent. In my younger days I was a bible reading sort, and I seem to recall lots of rhetoric about helping the helpless, feeding the hungry, loving those who don’t deserve it. Isn’t that the crux of all christianity? God loves you even though you didn’t earn it, so at a minimum you should pass that along. I see vanishingly little of that in modern christianity of all denominations. Anger, fear, hatred, strong-armed bully tactics – of those there is plenty. Simple love, allowing a little grace for the unredeemed, not much. This religion is a case study in cognitive dissonance.

Elswhere, he has this insight:

My government’s got a war on drugs. But get this: The two most widely abused and addictive and destructive of all substances are both perfectly legal.

One, of course, is ethyl alcohol. And President George W. Bush, no less, and by his own admission, was smashed or tiddley-poo or four sheets to the wind a good deal of the time from when he was 16 until he was 41. When he was 41, he says, Jesus appeared to him and made him knock off the sauce, stop gargling nose paint.

Other drunks have seen pink elephants.

And do you know why I think he is so pissed off at Arabs? They invented algebra. Arabs also invented the numbers we use, including a symbol for nothing, which nobody else had ever had before. You think Arabs are dumb? Try doing long division with Roman numerals.

I mourn in advance the loss of this philospher’s voice. Until that day, keep roaring against the tide Brother Vonnegut!

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Dave Slusher is a blogger, podcaster, computer programmer, author, science fiction fan and father.