Shuck and Jive
Saturday, August 06, 2011
Meaning of Life, Part 71
On the 66th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima (and Nagasaki on August 9th), I acknowledge Kurt Vonnegut, who understood how really stupid and vicious humans can be.
"We are gathered here, friends," he said, "to honor lo Hoon-yera Mora-toorz tut Zamoo-cratz-ya, children dead, all dead, all murdered in war. It is customary on days like this to call such lost children men. I am unable to call them men for this simple reason: that in the same war in which lo Hoon-yera Mora-toorz tut Zamoo-cratz-ya died, my own son died.
"My soul insists that I mourn not a man but a child.
"I do not say that children at war do not die like men, if they have to die. To their everlasting honor and our everlasting shame, they do die like men, thus making possible the manly jubilation of patriotic holidays.
"But they are murdered children all the same.
"And I propose to you that if we are to pay our sincere respects to the hundred lost children of San Lorenzo, that we might best spend the day despising what killed them; which is to say, the stupidity and viciousness of all mankind.
"Perhaps, when we remember wars, we should take off our clothes and paint ourselves blue and go on all fours all day long and grunt like pigs. That would surely be more appropriate than noble oratory and shows of flags and well-oiled guns....
"...But if today is really in honor of a hundred children murdered in war," he said, "is today a day for a thrilling show?
"The answer is yes, on one condition: that we, the celebrants, are working consciously and tirelessly to reduce the stupidity and viciousness of ourselves and all mankind...."
"...This wreath I bring is a gift from the people of one country to the people of another. Never mind which countries. Think of people....
"And children murdered in war...
"And any country at all.
"Think of peace.
"Think of brotherly love.
"Think of plenty."
"Think of what a paradise this world would be if men were kind and wise.
"As stupid and vicious as men are, this is a lovely day..."
--Kurt Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle, pp. 253-256.