So much bad news about the war today, but it is maybe just as important to mark the passing of a great humanist and peace supporter, novelist Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
Vonnegut died today at the age of 84, not from smoking his Paul Malls (or cancer sticks as he would call them), but from the lingering effects of a head injury sustained in a recent fall.
Vonnegut’s writings had a great influence on me as a youngster. In 1978 when I was twelve, living in Fredericton (hardly a hotbed of counterculture), my best freind had an uncle “who was a hippie.” He gave us our first few books by Vonnegut to read; Player Piano, Cats Cradle, God Bless You Mr. Rosewater, and Slaughterhouse Five. I ate them up, and kept reading Vonnegut’s writings until there wasn’t a book (or play) by him I hadn’t read.
Vonnegut probably turned me into a lefty humanist. One of my favourite passages from Slaughterhouse Five is one of Billy Pilgrim’s bouts of slipping back and forth in time, and while lying on his deathbed, he watches an old war movie – in reverse…
The city is in flames, and bombers fly overhead backwards, putting out the fires by packing the flames into bomb canisters which are lifted upward into the planes’ bomb-bays. The planes return to their airfields, flying backwards, where they land and people rush out to the planes to carefully take the bombs out of the cargo holds. Then the bombs are carted outside of the city to factories where people, women mostly, take the bombs apart, remove the explosives, and take them to open pit mines in the countryside. There, the explosives are safely buried in the ground where they can’t hurt anyone.