Iconoclastic novelist, essayist and humanist Kurt Vonnegut Jr has died, at the age of 84. While Vonnegut would be best described as a libertarian socialist (putting him in a category with such groups as the ACLU and Food Not Bombs), he was the writer whose work most strongly influenced my left libertarian beliefs. The loss of his wry wit and great intellect is a loss to us all.
For anyone not familiar with Vonnegut, he was without question one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. Penning such classics as Slaughterhouse Five and Breakfast of Champions, Vonnegut mixed science fiction, sarcasm, black humor, and keen insight to force us to confront the commonality of mankind. His “bad guys” were never people, but governments and situations. His characters were each “a victim of a series of accidents, as are we all.”
Vonnegut spoke out against war, despite his belief that WWII was necessary. In Slaughterhouse Five, named after the underground meat-packing cellar in which he was held as a POW during the bombing of Dresden, he confronted a truth that most would like to overlook when he wrote, “You know we’ve had to imagine the war here, and we have imagined that it was being fought by aging men like ourselves. We had forgotten that wars were fought by babies. When I saw those freshly shaved faces, it was a shock. ‘My God, my God—’ I said to myself. ‘It’s the Children’s Crusade.’” His Slaughterhouse Five catchphrase “So it goes”, an ironic reference to death, was adopted by protesters during Vietnam. (more…)