THOLOS OF ATHENA

Sunday, April 15, 2007

KURT VONNEGUT WAS BEAUTIFUL

"Many years ago I was so innocent I still considered it possible that we could become the humane and responsible America so many members of my generation used to dream of. We dreamed of such an America during the Great Depression, when there were no jobs. And then we fought and often died for that dream during the Second World War, when there was no peace.

But I know now that there is not a chance in hell of America becoming humane and reasonable. Because power corrupts us, and absolute power corrupts us absolutely. Human beings are chimpanzees who get crazy drunk on power. By saying that our leaders are power-drunk chimpanzees, am I in danger of wrecking the morale of our soldiers fighting and dying in the Middle East? Their morale, like so many lifeless bodies, is already shot to pieces. They are being treated, as I never was, like toys a rich kid got for Christmas."

--Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without A Country, p. 71-2


"Where are Mark Twain and Abraham Lincoln now when we need them? They were country boys from Middle America, and both of them made the American people laugh at themselves and appreciate really important, really moral jokes. Imagine what they would have to say today.

One of the most humiliated and heartbroken pieces Mark Twain ever wrote was about the slaughter of six hundred Moro men, women, and children by our soldiers during our liberation of the Philippines after the Spanish-American War. Our brave commander was Leonard Wood, who now has a fort named after him. Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri.

What did Abraham Lincoln have to say about America's imperialist wars, the ones that, on one noble pretext or another, aim to increase the natural resources and pools of tame labor available to the richest Americans who have the best political connections?

It is almost always a mistake to mention Abraham Lincoln. He always steals the show. I am about to quote him again.

More than a decade before his Gettysburg Address, back in 1848, when Lincoln was only a Congressman, he was heartbroken and humiliated by our war on Mexico, which had never attacked us. James Polk was the person Representative Lincoln had in mind when he said what he said. Abraham Lincoln said of Polk, his president, his armed forces' commander-in-chief:
Trusting to escape scrutiny, by fixing the public gaze upon the exceeding brightness of military glory--that attractive rainbow, that rises in showers of blood--that serpent's eye, that charms to destroy--he plunged into war.
Holy shit! And I thought I was a writer!

Do you know we actually captured Mexico City during the Mexican War? Why isn't that a national holiday? And why isn't the face of James Polk, then our president, up on Mount Rushmore along with Ronald Reagan's? What made Mexico so evil back in the 1840s, well before our Civil War, is that slavery was illegal there. Remember the Alamo? With that war we were making California our own, and a lot of other people and properties, and doing it as though butchering Mexican soldiers who were only defending their homeland against invaders wasn't murder. What other stuff besides California? Well, Texas, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and parts of New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming.

Speaking of plunging into war, do you know why I think George W. Bush is so pissed off at Arabs? They brought us algebra. Also the numbers we use, including a symbol for nothing, which Europeans had never used before. You think Arabs are dumb? Try doing long division with Roman Numerals."

--ibid, pp. 75-7
AP Photo/Buzz Orr

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