Thursday, April 12, 2007

Indianapolis is bad for your health

In one of those ironies, the City of Indianapolis chooses Kurt Vonnegut's book Slaughterhouse Five as their "Book of the Year" and as part of a city-wide celebration of Kurt Vonnegut's life. And half a continent away, only hours later, Vonnegut croaks.

Vonnegut was one of many Americans of the WWII generation who objected to what their country has becoming, bemoaning in his last book that the America he grew up in and loved was dead, that he was now a man without a country, marooned in a foreign land of dead dreams and lies that occupied the same general geographical area as what was once America but had now turned into a mean and vicious place where hope was dead and dreams were tiny little things, pale shades of dreams, a new car or a a few cents an hour raise at your job or hoping you don't get fired tomorrow or don't get sick in this new and meaner America where if you don't have health insurance, you die if you get sick. In his final years, clearly ill and dying, he still made the rounds of the talk shows to thump his book and make his point to national audiences.

And no one listened. Because he was, after all, a man without a country, a man whose dream, the American dream of a better place with liberty and justice for all where no child need go to sleep hungry or cold, is dead and gone and replaced with the dream of a boot stamping upon a human face, forever. A dream where we stamp upon the untermenschen, those who are not like us, those who are poor, those who are children and therefore helpless, those who have done nothing but exist and breathe the same air as us. The dream of a vicious, mad people who will die, in the end, but whose possession of the largest nuclear arsenal on the planet will undoubtedly take the rest of the world with them.

When dreams become nightmares, there is no place for people like Kurt Vonnegut to remind us of an older America, a better America, an America which may not have been perfect by any means but where people were not afraid to dream of a better America and a better world. It is perhaps fitting that Kurt Vonnegut checked out only hours after news of this award in his honor. How better to crack a huge joke upon the people of Indianapolis and elsewhere?

And so it goes.

-- Badtux the Vonnegut-readin' Penguin

Note: A better version of this story is up on the Mockingbird's Medley.


  1. Here's what frightens me - we are slowly losing all the Holocaust survivors. Not family members, actual camp survivors. When there is no one left to tell the story first-hand, when does it become easy to forget?

  2. I'm not sure how that relates. Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis, and served as a U.S. soldier in WWII until captured during the Battle of the Bulge and taken to the garden city of Dresden, a city with no war industries. During that time Dresden was firebombed with great loss of life as a firestorm overwhelmed the city and suffocated thousands in the bomb shelters. That doesn't have anything to do with the Holocaust.

    In the end, the genocide of the Jews during the Nazi regime will go down in history alongside the genocide of the Ukrainians by Stalin (which was similar in scale), the genocide of the Armenians by the Turks (which exterminated a similar percentage of the Armenian population albeit being a smaller total number), or any other number of genocides in history. The relatives of the survivors will do their best to keep the memory alive, and the rest of the world will do what the rest of the world always does -- look for someone else to genocide. I guess that makes me cynical. So it goes.

    - Badtux the Cynical Penguin

  3. I had the pleasure of hearing Vonnegut speak at Indiana University during my college years. I'll miss him. RIP.

  4. wonderfully said -- hugs thanks!!

    i grew up with this guy on my english reading list...just so sad he's gone...

  5. Yup, I'm a man without a country, it has become a piece of crap full of greedy and needy people. Jeeps, SUV's, all sorts of things.

    You're part of the solution or you are part of the problem.

  6. Or you're just a cranky old man.

    - Badtux the Cranky Penguin

  7. Of course I'm a cranky old man. Just as Kurt was. Just as Jesus was.

    Only death isn't a concept to me, it's only a concept to mortals and some Penguin's.

    You don't really think you will be missed after two weeks do you?

    But the planet might be a better place with one less Penguin that is too needy. Just saying is all.

    I wonder how the genocide of the Americans will go down in history? And I don't mean the Native Americans.

    What goes around comes around.

  8. Oh, I wasn't trying to tie the two together. It just happened to call up the thought, for some reason. Carry on... nothing to see here.

  9. BBC: Given that Jesus died in his thirties, I have a really hard time believing he died a cranky old man.

    Just sayin'...

  10. BBC: Given that Jesus died in his thirties, I have a really hard time believing he died a cranky old man.

    Just sayin'...
    # posted by Mimus Pauly

    Well, with life expectancies for Jews in first century BCE around, ohhhhh, 35.....

  11. Carl, it's always risky to talk about life expectancies in the pre-medical-revolution world. For example, in the late 1700's average life expectancy was probably similar to average life expectancy during the Roman era. We knew little more about medicine in 1795AD than we knew in 10BC. Average life expectancy probably hovered in the mid 30's. However, note that our "founding fathers" all lived long lives. John Adams lived to the ripe old age of 91 years. Ben Franklin died at age 84. Thomas Jefferson died at age 83. Even George Washington lasted to age 67 before being killed by what passed as "modern medicine" in that era.

    What you saw, if you looked at the demographics of those who were dying, was a lot of young kids dying. A *LOT* of young kids dying. You basically had to birth ten kids to get two who'd survive to adulthood. But once they survived childhood, they lived pretty much as long as anybody today. Yeah, they didn't have heart surgery back then. But they also had less *need* for heart surgery back then, since most people lived active lifestyles because most people were farmers, and even in the cities and towns you pretty much walked everywhere.

    So anyhow, if Jesus was in his mid 30's when he was executed by the Roman equivalent of the electric chair, he could have looked forward to another 40-50 years of life easily even given the crappy medical care of the era. It always bugs me when some so-called "Christians" talk in favor of capital punishment. You'd think that their own "Savior" being the victim of an unjust conviction and executed via the electric chair would make them wary about sending other possible victims of unjust convictions to the electric chair. But making that connection, I suppose, requires actual thought. Which so-called "Christians" prefer not to engage in, because, well, apparently they think God made a big mistake giving Mankind the capacity to reason. Or something like that.

    - Badtux the History Penguin


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