Re-reading Slaughterhouse-Five this past week, for me, shows
this to be true.
( published Circleville Herald 14 November 2011)
Congratulations to my son Travis, Field Commander for the Logan Elm High School Band and all the fine students and Band Director Mr. Chickerell for performing at the Bands of America competition held November 10-13 at Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis. I was blessed to see our students meeting and talking with others from all over our nation, some with accents not often heard in Pickaway County. I wish a peaceful and meaningful future for all these young men and women. The Logan Elm band's show "The Long Road Home" about the attack on Pearl Harbor brought a tear to many an eye, followed by a standing ovation.
I visited the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, a couple hundred yards north of the stadium. Born in 1954, I don't remember Pearl Harbor. I listen instead to my father, veteran of WWll speak of his memories of his parents looking concerned and frightened as they sent him off to war. My father's father, Hiram Cotton served in WWl,. My Dad remembers Hiram's fear for his safety.
I first read Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse Five" summer of 1970, months after Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer, Allison Krause, William Schroeder were shot to death with WWll vintage M-1 rifles at Kent State protesting the Vietnam War. Vonnegut was held as a POW, deep below ground in the cold meat lockers of slaughterhouse five, thus becoming one of the few survivors of the joint British/ U.S terror bombing of Dresden 13-14 February 1945. As Dresden was crowded with war refugees, estimates of the dead are uncertain, varying from 25,000 to 135,000 civilians. Churchill himself admits the bombing of Dresden was terrorism: "It seems to me that the moment has come when the question of bombing of German cities simply for the sake of increasing the terror, though under other pretexts, should be reviewed. I feel the need for more precise concentration upon military objectives. rather than mere acts of terror and wanton destruction, however impressive."
Vonnegut notes that it took him over 23 years to write about Dresden, 23 years of flashbacks and tears and feeling like Lot's wife, at risk of becoming a pillar of salt looking back at the worst massacre in European history. Vonnegut finished " Slaughterhouse" summer of 1968, at the height of our tragic and mistaken war in Vietnam. Too young for Pearl Harbor, I do remember with Vonnegut : "Robert Kennedy. was shot two nights ago. He died last night. So it goes. Martin Luther King was shot a month ago. He died, too. So it goes. And every day my government gives me a count of corpses created by military science in Vietnam. So it goes."
My granddaughter Ariana ( aka Little Miss Pumpkin Show 2010) came downstairs where I sweat on the elliptical machine , watching the film version of "Slaughterhouse Five". The surviving American POWS were burning mountains of civilian corpses, women, children, old folks. I turned off the film. Second graders need to believe life is good, that people are kind and the world is full of Pumpkin Shows and band competitions.
I wore my "Veterans for Peace" sweatshirt to the Vonnegut Memorial Library on Veteran's Day. Vonnegut was a member of Veterans for Peace. So is Pfc. Bradley Manning, held prisoner for the crime of bringing video before our eyes of American helicopter gunships murdering Iraqi civilians July 2007. Scott Olsen, Iraq War vet can be seen wearing a Veterans for Peace shirt while EMS personnel treat him for skull fractures sustained after being hit with a tear gas canister at the "Occupy Oakland" protest. Days later Iraq Veterans Against the War vet Kayvan Sabeghi was severely injured by the Oakland police while protesting economic unfairness at home.
Veterans for Peace member and author Vonnegut writes of himself and his novel "Slaughter house Five: "It is short and jumbled and jangled. because there is nothing intelligent to say about a massacre. Everybody is supposed to be dead, to never say anything or want anything ever again. Everything is supposed to be quiet after a massacre. . I have told my sons that they are not under any circumstances to take part in massacres, and that the news of massacres of enemies is not to fill them with satisfaction or glee. I have told them also not to work for companies which make massacre machinery, and to express contempt for people who think we need machinery like that."
Kurt's son Mark is a pediatrician. He must have listened to his Dad. By the time all accounting is done, the tragic and wrongful Iraq and Afghanistan wars will have cost us $6 trillion. Much of that $6 trillion went to Wall Street corporations who make massacre machinery, a big chunk then kicked back as campaign contributions to "deficit hawk" politicians who tell us we must have even more massacre machinery. This $6 trillion and the Bush tax cuts for the richest among us is the deficit. Repeat: war spending and tax cuts for the wealthiest individuals and corporations among us is the deficit. Read "Slaughterhouse Five", then call your legislator, tell him or her we need education, health care ("Medicare for All" of course!), bridges, plowshares, not swords.
- - - Brad Cotton