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Saturday, April 14, 2007

So It Goes

Kurt Vonnegut died quietly on Thursday, news of his death being lost among all the Imus blather in the media. Kurt was the anti-Imus: knowledgeable, never purposely cruel, a humanist who came by his views through life experience–he survived he bombing of Dresden in WWII–and wanted to make the world a better place.

His books were an important part of my youth; I read them all throughout high school and college. Unlike many other favorites of my youth (e.g. Heinlein), they have stood the test of time, and I enjoy them still. His books were a melange of science fiction and social consciousness, with a good deal of humor. His plots were nonsensical yet meaningful. He was Kilgore Trout with good writing skills, a latter day Mark Twain.

The purpose of his books, was, in his own words, to "catch people before they become generals and presidents and so forth and poison their minds with humanity."

He opposed the War in Iraq, and took other unpopular stands. The was a humanist/atheist, and never felt compelled to lie about or justify it. He love his country, but not unconditionally, and could see her flaws:

Kurt on the state of our country:
I myself feel that our country, for whose Constitution I fought in a just war, might as well have been invaded by Martians and body snatchers. Sometimes I wish it had been. What has happened, though, is that it has been taken over by means of the sleaziest, low-comedy, Keystone Cops-style coup d’etat imaginable. And those now in charge of the federal government are upper-crust C-students who know no history or geography, plus not-so-closeted white supremacists, aka 'Christians,' and plus, most frighteningly, psychopathic personalities.'
On Bush's foreign policy:
So let's give another big tax cut to the super-rich. That'll teach bin Laden a lesson he won't soon forget.
About the causes of the Iraq war:
Here's what I think the truth is: We are all addicts of fossil fuels in a 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 we’re hooked on.

About how our two-party system has come to be defined by the media:
If you want to take my guns away from me, and you’re all for murdering fetuses, and love it when homosexuals marry each other, and want to give them kitchen appliances at their showers, and you’re for the poor, you’re a liberal. If you are against those perversions and for the rich, you’re a conservative. What could be simpler?
About Bush's former popularity:
"The overwhelming popularity of President Bush, in spite of everything, finally shows us what the American people, whom we have so sentimentalized for so long, a la Norman Rockwell, really are, thanks to TV and purposely lousy public schools: ignorant. Count on it!"
About global warming:
We could have saved the Earth but we were too damned cheap.
About his general political philosophy, one with which I am in complete accord:
I don't want to belong to a country that attacks little countries.
Per PZ at Pharyngula, I think it is also only fair to give him Kilgore Trout's epitaph:
We are healthy only to the extent that our ideas are humane.

PZ Myers also notes a request from Kurt:
I am, incidentally, Honorary President of the American Humanist Association, having succeeded the late, great science fiction writer Isaac Asimov in that totally functionless capacity. We had a memorial service for Isaac a few years back, and I spoke and said at one point, "Isaac is up in heaven now." It was the funniest thing I could have said to an audience of humanists. I rolled them in the aisles. It was several minutes before order could be restored. And if I should ever die, God forbid, I hope you will say, "Kurt is up in heaven now." That's my favorite joke.
Per his request.......Kurt is up in heaven now!

A nice eulogy here.


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