Thursday, August 12, 2004

Kurt Vonnegut

I have fallen in love.

With a man.

But don't worry, I'm not gay.

At least, I don't think.

The object of my affections these days is Kurt Vonnegut. I've only had the fortune to read one of his novels, Breakfast of Champions. I've got a standard list of adjectives that I apply to works of art that I like, and this one fulfills them all. Funny, sad, wise, etc. Clicky the link, then read the book.

Otherwise, I've been thoroughly enjoying Vonnegut's essays written for the site In These Times. If you're looking for a standout example, check out Cold Turkey.

Notable excerpts.

But back to people, like Confucius and Jesus and my son the doctor, Mark, who’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 native 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 say while campaigning:

As long as there is a lower class, I am in it.
As long as there is a criminal element, I’m of it.
As long as there is a soul in prison, I am not free.

Doesn’t anything socialistic make you want to throw up? Like great public schools or health insurance for all?

How about Jesus’ 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 or 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 that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere.

“Blessed are the merciful” in a courtroom? “Blessed are the peacemakers” in the Pentagon? Give me a break!

Read the rest of the essay. Make time for it.

And hey. If any Christians down in the US start a campaign to place the Beatitudes on government buildings, I'll support it.

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