In honor of one of the era's greatest writers, Kurt Vonnegut, who passed away April 11, 2007
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. - Kurt
Vonnegut, January, 2003
Vonnegut: We've Been Hijacked By Bush And Co.
By JULES WITCOVER
April 15 2007
The passing at 84 of Kurt Vonnegut, the irreverent American writer who created sane and insane characters trying to deal with an insane world of greed, stupidity and war, comes at a time when material for his craft has never been more plentiful. What would he say about a president who calls an escalation of war a "surge" to deal with a short-term challenge, and then approves extending the tour of the soldiers who have to fight it? And what would he say about an administration that changes the definition of torture to fit its practices, while sending suspected terrorists to other countries where the foul deeds are permitted?
And on and on, as Vonnegut might put it. His experience as an American prisoner of war in Dresden when it was firebombed in World War II conditioned him to write bitingly of war and the human condition. But his gift for irony and a soaring imagination was what made his voice so arresting to protesting Americans during the Vietnam War, and again though less prominently in the current fiasco in Iraq.
Here are some excerpts from his last book, "A Man Without a Country: A Memoir of Life in George W. Bush's America," published in 2005 by Seven Stories Press:
"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 instead is that it was taken over by means of the sleaziest, low-comedy, Keystone Cops-style coup d'etat imaginable." I was once asked if I had any ideas for a really scary reality TV show. I have one reality show that would really make your hair stand on end: `C-Students from Yale.' George W Bush has gathered around him upper-crust C-students who know no history or geography, plus not-so-closeted white supremacists, a.k.a. Christians, and plus, most frighteningly, psychopathic personalities, or PPs, the medical term for smart, personable people who have no consciences. "To say somebody is a PP is to make a perfectly respectable diagnosis, like saying he or she has appendicitis or athlete's foot. ... Some people are born deaf, some are born blind or whatever. . . . These were people born without consciences, and suddenly they are taking charge of everything ... they know full well the suffering their actions may cause others, but they do not care ... they are waging a war that is making billionaires out of millionaires, and trillionaires out of billionaires, and they own television, and they bankroll George Bush, and not because he's against gay marriage. ..."
So many of these heartless PPs (who) now hold big jobs in our federal government ... have taken charge of communications and the schools, so we might as well be Poland under occupation. They might have felt that taking our country into an endless war was simply something decisive to do. ...Do this! Do that! Mobilize the reserves! Privatize the public schools! Attack Iraq! Cut health care! Tap everybody's telephone! Cut taxes on the rich! ..." In case you haven't noticed, we are now as feared and hated all over the world as 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. .... 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. ..."
Albert Einstein and Mark Twain gave up on the human race at the end of their lives, even though Twain hadn't even seen the First World War. War is now a form of TV entertainment, and what made the First World War so particularly entertaining were two American inventions, barbed wire and the machine gun. ..."Like my distinct betters Einstein and Twain, I now give up on people, too. I am a veteran of the Second World War and I have to say this is not the first time I have surrendered to a pitiless war machine."As Vonnegut would say if he were still here: "So it goes."
Jules Witcover is a syndicated writer in Washington