Kurt Vonnegut Jr
A pseudo-biography of a life lived in the ambivalence of war.
“This is the only story of mine whose moral I know. I don’t think it’s a marvellous moral, I simply happen to know what it is: We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”
“Five years after that, a lively elder statesman of seventy-one, an alert old man with no regrets, the Reverend Doctor Lionel J. D. Jones, D.D.S., DJD., paid me a call. Why should I have honored that with such a full-dress biography?
In order to contrast with myself a race-baiter who is ignorant and insane. I am neither ignorant nor insane. Those whose orders I carried out in Germany were as ignorant and insane as Dr. Jones. I knew it. God help me, I carried out their instructions anyway.”
“‘You’ve changed so,’ she said. ‘People should be changed by world wars,’ I said, ‘else what are world wars for?’”
“Watching Kraft pop away at that target, I understood its popularity for the first time. The amateurishness of it made it look like something drawn on the wall of a public lavatory; it recalled the stink, diseased twilight, humid resonance, and vile privacy of a stall in a public lavatory — echoed exactly the soul’s condition in a man at war.”
“The more barbaric newspapers printed without comment letters from people who wanted me displayed from coast to coast in an iron cage; from heroes who volunteered to serve in a firing squad for me, as though the use of small arms were a skill known to few; from people who planned to do nothing themselves, but were confident enough in American civilization to know that there were other, stronger, younger people who would know what to do. And these last-named patriots were right in having confidence. I doubt if there has ever been a society that has been without strong and young people eager to experiment with homicide, provided no very awful penalties are attached to it.”
“‘I’m not your destiny, or the Devil, either!’ I said. ‘Look at you! Came to kill evil with your bare hands, and now away you go with no more glory than a man sideswiped by a Greyhound bus! And that’s all the glory you deserve!’ I said. ‘That’s all that any man at war with pure evil deserves.’
‘There are plenty of good reasons for fighting,’ I said, ‘but no good reason ever to hate without reservation, to imagine that God Almighty Himself hates with you, too. Where’s evil? It’s that large part of every man that wants to hate without limit, that wants to hate with God on its side. It’s that part of every man that finds all lands of ugliness so attractive. ‘It’s that part of an imbecile,’ I said, ‘that punishes and vilifies and makes war gladly.’”