[lit-ideas] Re: I always have loved Vonnegut....

  • From: "Stan Spiegel" <writeforu2@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 18 May 2004 17:34:13 -0400

Julie - Thanks for the Vonnegut article. I must be in a weakened
condition -- or something -- because the first paragraph made me burst into
tears. I enjoyed it -- not the tears, but the piece you shared. Stan

----- Original Message ----- 
From: <JulieReneB@xxxxxxx>
To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Monday, May 17, 2004 6:14 PM
Subject: [lit-ideas] I always have loved Vonnegut....

> (any relation to you, Mike?  I just realized who you sometimes remind me
> Click here: Cold Turkey -- In These Times
> http://www.inthesetimes.com/site/main/article/cold_turkey
> Cold Turkey
> By Kurt VonnegutMay 10, 2004
> Many years ago, I was so innocent I still considered it possible that we
> could become the humane and reasonable America so many members of my
> used to dream of. We dreamed of such an America during the Great
> when there were no jobs. And then we fought and often died for that dream
> the Second World War, when there was no peace.
> But I know now that there is not a chance in hell of Americaâ?Ts becoming
> humane and reasonable. Because power corrupts us, and absolute power
> absolutely. Human beings are chimpanzees who get crazy drunk on power. By
> that our leaders are power-drunk chimpanzees, am I in danger of wrecking
> morale of our soldiers fighting and dying in the Middle East? Their
morale, like
> so many bodies, is already shot to pieces. They are being treated, as I
> was, like toys a rich kid got for Christmas.
> -------------------------
> When you get to my age, if you get to my age, which is 81, and if you have
> reproduced, you will find yourself asking your own children, who are
> middle-aged, what life is all about. I have seven kids, four of them
> Many of you reading this are probably the same age as my grandchildren.
> like you, are being royally shafted and lied to by our Baby Boomer
> corporations and government.
> I put my big question about life to my biological son Mark. Mark is a
> pediatrician, and author of a memoir, The Eden Express. It is about his
> straightjacket and padded cell stuff, from which he recovered sufficiently
> graduate from Harvard Medical School.
> Dr. Vonnegut said this to his doddering old dad: â?oFather, we are here to
> each other get through this thing, whatever it is.â?? So I pass that on to
> Write it down, and put it in your computer, so you can forget it.
> I have to say thatâ?Ts a pretty good sound bite, almost as good as, â?oDo
> others as you would have them do unto you.â?? A lot of people think Jesus
> that, because it is so much the sort of thing Jesus liked to say. But it
> actually said by Confucius, a Chinese philosopher, 500 years before there
> that greatest and most humane of human beings, named Jesus Christ.
> The Chinese also gave us, via Marco Polo, pasta and the formula for
> gunpowder. The Chinese were so dumb they only used gunpowder for
fireworks. And
> everybody was so dumb back then that nobody in either hemisphere even knew
that there
> was another one.
> But back to people, like Confucius and Jesus and my son the doctor, Mark,
> ve said how we could behave more humanely, and maybe make the world a less
> painful place. One of my favorites is Eugene Debs, from Terre Haute in my
> state of Indiana. Get a load of this:
> 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
> while campaigning:
> As long as there is a lower class, I am in it.
> As long as there is a criminal element, Iâ?Tm of it.
> As long as there is a soul in prison, I am not free.
> Doesnâ?Tt anything socialistic make you want to throw up? Like great
> schools or health insurance for all?
> How about Jesusâ?T 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
> 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 thatâ?Ts Moses,
not Jesus. I haven
> â?Tt heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the
Beatitudes, be
> posted anywhere.
> â?oBlessed are the mercifulâ?? in a courtroom? â?oBlessed are the
peacemakersâ?? in
> the Pentagon? Give me a break!
> -------------------------
> There is a tragic flaw in our precious Constitution, and I donâ?Tt know
> can be done to fix it. This is it: Only nut cases want to be president.
> But, when you stop to think about it, only a nut case would want to be a
> human being, if he or she had a choice. Such treacherous, untrustworthy,
lying and
> greedy animals we are!
> I was born a human being in 1922 A.D. What does â?oA.D.â?? signify? That
> commemorates an inmate of this lunatic asylum we call Earth who was nailed
to a
> wooden cross by a bunch of other inmates. With him still conscious, they
> spikes through his wrists and insteps, and into the wood. Then they set
> cross upright, so he dangled up there where even the shortest person in
the crowd
> could see him writhing this way and that.
> Can you imagine people doing such a thing to a person?
> No problem. Thatâ?Ts entertainment. Ask the devout Roman Catholic Mel
> who, as an act of piety, has just made a fortune with a movie about how
> was tortured. Never mind what Jesus said.
> During the reign of King Henry the Eighth, founder of the Church of
> he had a counterfeiter boiled alive in public. Show biz again.
> Mel Gibsonâ?Ts next movie should be The Counterfeiter. Box office records
> again be broken.
> One of the few good things about modern times: If you die horribly on
> television, you will not have died in vain. You will have entertained us.
> -------------------------
> And what did the great British historian Edward Gibbon, 1737-1794 A.D.,
> to say about the human record so far? He said, â?oHistory is indeed little
> than the register of the crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind.â??
> The same can be said about this morningâ?Ts edition of the New York Times.
> The French-Algerian writer Albert Camus, who won a Nobel Prize for
> in 1957, wrote, â?oThere is but one truly serious philosophical problem,
> that is suicide.â??
> So thereâ?Ts another barrel of laughs from literature. Camus died in an
> automobile accident. His dates? 1913-1960 A.D.
> Listen. All great literature is about what a bummer it is to be a human
> being: Moby Dick, Huckleberry Finn, The Red Badge of Courage, the Iliad
and the
> Odyssey, Crime and Punishment, the Bible and The Charge of the Light
> But I have to say this in defense of humankind: No matter in what era in
> history, including the Garden of Eden, everybody just got there. And,
except for
> the Garden of Eden, there were already all these crazy games going on,
> could make you act crazy, even if you werenâ?Tt crazy to begin with. Some
of the
> games that were already going on when you got here were love and hate,
> liberalism and conservatism, automobiles and credit cards, golf and
girlsâ?T basketball.
> Even crazier than golf, though, is modern American politics, where, thanks
> TV and for the convenience of TV, you can only be one of two kinds of
> beings, either a liberal or a conservative.
> Actually, this same sort of thing happened to the people of England
> generations ago, and Sir William Gilbert, of the radical team of Gilbert
and Sullivan,
> wrote these words for a song about it back then:
> I often think itâ?Ts comical
> How nature always does contrive
> That every boy and every gal
> Thatâ?Ts born into the world alive
> Is either a little Liberal
> Or else a little Conservative.
> Which one are you in this country? Itâ?Ts practically a law of life that
> have to be one or the other? If you arenâ?Tt one or the other, you might
as well
> be a doughnut.
> If some of you still havenâ?Tt decided, Iâ?Tll make it easy for you.
> If you want to take my guns away from me, and youâ?Tre all for murdering
> fetuses, and love it when homosexuals marry each other, and want to give
> kitchen appliances at their showers, and youâ?Tre for the poor, youâ?Tre a
> If you are against those perversions and for the rich, youâ?Tre a
> What could be simpler?
> -------------------------
> My governmentâ?Ts got a war on drugs. But get this: The two most widely
> and addictive and destructive of all substances are both perfectly legal.
> One, of course, is ethyl alcohol. And President George W. Bush, no less,
> 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,
> says, Jesus appeared to him and made him knock off the sauce, stop
> 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
> which nobody else had ever had before. You think Arabs are dumb? Try doing
> division with Roman numerals.
> Weâ?Tre spreading democracy, are we? Same way European explorers brought
> Christianity to the Indians, what we now call â?oNative Americans.â??
> How ungrateful they were! How ungrateful are the people of Baghdad today.
> So letâ?Ts give another big tax cut to the super-rich. Thatâ?Tll teach bin
> a lesson he wonâ?Tt soon forget. Hail to the Chief.
> That chief and his cohorts have as little to do with Democracy as the
> Europeans had to do with Christianity. We the people have absolutely no
say in
> whatever they choose to do next. In case you havenâ?Tt noticed, theyâ?Tve
> cleaned out the treasury, passing it out to pals in the war and national
> rackets, leaving your generation and the next one with a perfectly
> debt that youâ?Tll be asked to repay.
> Nobody let out a peep when they did that to you, because they have
> disconnected every burglar alarm in the Constitution: The House, the
Senate, the Supreme
> Court, the FBI, the free press (which, having been embedded, has forsaken
> First Amendment) and We the People.
> About my own history of foreign substance abuse. Iâ?Tve been a coward
> heroin and cocaine and LSD and so on, afraid they might put me over the
edge. I
> did smoke a joint of marijuana one time with Jerry Garcia and the Grateful
> Dead, just to be sociable. It didnâ?Tt seem to do anything to me, one way
or the
> other, so I never did it again. And by the grace of God, or whatever, I am
not an
> alcoholic, largely a matter of genes. I take a couple of drinks now and
> and will do it again tonight. But two is my limit. No problem.
> I am of course notoriously hooked on cigarettes. I keep hoping the things
> will kill me. A fire at one end and a fool at the other.
> But Iâ?Tll tell you one thing: I once had a high that not even crack
> could match. That was when I got my first driverâ?Ts license! Look out,
> here comes Kurt Vonnegut.
> And my car back then, a Studebaker, as I recall, was powered, as are
> all means of transportation and other machinery today, and electric power
> plants and furnaces, by the most abused and addictive and destructive
drugs of all:
> fossil fuels.
> When you got here, even when I got here, the industrialized world was
> hopelessly hooked on fossil fuels, and very soon now there wonâ?Tt be any
> of those. Cold turkey.
> Can I tell you the truth? I mean this isnâ?Tt like TV news, is it?
> Hereâ?Ts what I think the truth is: We are all addicts of fossil fuels in
> state of denial, about to face cold turkey.
> And like so many addicts about to face cold turkey, our leaders are now
> committing violent crimes to get what little is left of what weâ?Tre
hooked on.
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