Kurt Vonnegut On Remembering the War

Remembrance Day always puts me in mind of this passage from Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five. It's from Chapter 1, when Vonnegut, while trying to write a book about his experiences in the war, takes a trip to Cape Cod to see his old war buddy, Bernard V O'Hare. Vonnegut realizes, though, that Bernard's wife, Mary, isn't happy to see him....

So we tried to ignore Mary and remember the war. I took a couple of belts of the booze I'd brought. We would chuckle or grin sometimes, as though war stories were coming back, but neither one of us could remember anything good. O'Hare remembered one guy who got into a lot of wine in Dresden, before it was bombed, and we had to take him home in a wheelbarrow. It wasn't much to write a book about. I remembered two Russian soldiers who had looted a clock factory. They had a horse-drawn wagon full of clocks. They were happy and drunk. They were smoking huge cigarettes they had rolled in newspaper.

That was about it for memories, and Mary was still making noise. She finally came out in the kitchen again for another Coke. She took another tray of ice cubes from the refrigerator, banged it in the sink, even though there was already plenty of ice out.

Then she turned to me, let me see how angry she was, and that the anger was for me. She had been talking to herself, so what she said was a fragment of a much larger conversation. "You were just babies then!" she said.

"What?" I said.

"You were just babies in the war -- like the ones upstairs!"

I nodded that this was true. We had been foolish virgins in the war, right at the end of childhood.

"But you're not going to write it that way, are you." This wasn't a question. It was an accusation.

"I -- I don't know," I said.

"Well, I know," she said. "You'll pretend you were men instead of babies, and you'll be played in the movies by Frank Sinatra and John Wayne or some of those other glamorous, war-loving, dirty old men. And war will look just wonderful, so we'll have a lot more of them. And they'll be fought by babies like the babies upstairs."

So then I understood. It was war that made her so angry. She didn't want her babies or anybody else's babies killed in wars. And she thought wars were partly encouraged by books and movies.

Please Forgive The Language: A Remembrance Day Commentary

Fuck war. Fuck the people who profit from it. Fuck the people who romanticize it. Fuck those who defend it as "neccessary". Fuck the pious who justify war through religion. Fuck the micro-dicked potbellied would-be generals with their Napoleon complexes and their "mommy dressed me like a little girl" need to prove themselves.

War is the failure of intelligence, compassion, diplomacy and creativity. War is the end result of short-sightedness, of defective leadership, of ego and ideology. War is the cannibalism of the young by the old and failed. War is a frightened adult child's need to dominate and control. War is a misguided and foolish craving for action when patience and reason is called for. War is the dance of death between the poor winner and the bad loser.

War is mass murder.

War is misogyny.

War is the last resort that almost certainly could've been avoided.

War is a unique agent of extinction.

War is never as far away as you think. Beware its eloquent defenders and its coarse cheerleaders. War is not a sport.

To hell with war.

Today is Remembrance Day.

Six in the Morning

1. RECESSION EN ROUTE TO SASKATCHEWAN: The Sask Party's Sask party is coming to an end as Finance Minister, Rod Gantefor, announces the provincial economy will shrink in 2009 and we'll be in recession by the end of the year. (Leader Post)

2. MURDOCH DOESN'T THINK OBAMA RACIST... OR DOES HE? Murdoch has had to back away from his support for comments by Fox News loony, Glen Beck. Apparently, Beck, a much-beloved pundit/retard, accused the president of racism. Murdoch wouldn't go that far. (Guardian)

3. AT LEAST BRAZIL IS ON BOARD: Brazil will be making a voluntary commitment to deep carbon emission reductions at the Copenhagen Climate Conference. (Guardian)

4. IMMUNIZATION LINEUPS SHRINK IN REGINA: The line ups aren't so long anymore at Regina's H1N1 immunization clinic at Usher Collegiate. I can attest to this fact as I took my daughter out to get the shot yesterday. Yessir, we barely had to wait around for very long at all. Mind you, the bit where we had to sit in a holding area on metal chairs, all facing a wall-length mirror half covered in paper was pretty damn creepy. (No, seriously. They make you do that.) And of course, the bus ride took forever. Speaking of.... who's genius idea was it to put the clinic way the hell out at Usher anyway? For what percentage of the city is that location convenient? My theory: they put the clinic that close to edge of town just in case the Swine Flu spontaneously mutates into a zombie virus and the people in line go all berserk in an anthropophagus feeding frenzy. That way, they can drive the zombie hoard north onto the Ring Road to be run over by commuter traffic. And if a few zombies get into the Zellers... well... not really a loss, is it? But like I say, just a theory. (Leader Post)

5. CANADA - CONSERVATIVE STYLE: The feds are releasing a new citizenship guide. The primer on Canadian history and culture will be required reading for all new citizens to the country. Among the changes from the old guide, it puts our military's peacekeeping role in the background while having a greater emphasis on our long military tradition. Go figure. (Globe and Mail)

6. NEW DINOSAUR SPECIES DISCOVERED: Scientists have discovered a fossil oasis in Africa in which they found the remains of a new dinosaur, called the Aardonyx Celestae --- the name clearly a cynical ploy to get their species listed first in the Dino Dictionary. (Globe and Mail)

Pick of the Day: Remembrance Day

Given the importance of opium to funding the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, the poppy as a symbol of remembrance of the sacrifices made by soldiers and civilians in WWI, WWII and other armed conflicts in recent memory, definitely takes on an air of irony that it previously lacked.

Today, of course, memorial services are being held at Brandt Centre and at the Cenotaph in Victoria Park to commemorate Canada's war dead. I'm not going to slam them, but as was made evident by the recent two-part exhibition Diabolique at the Dunlop Art Gallery, when it comes to war and violence, we definitely have "issues". On one hand, we profess to abhor this dark side of human nature. But in ways to numerous to mention, in our politics, news coverage, entertainment and sometimes even art, we not only tolerate, but actually glamorize and celebrate our capacity for inflicting injury and death on others.

Take time today, certainly, to honour those who, in Orwellian-style newspeak, made the "ultimate sacrifice." But tomorrow night, be sure to check out a screening of the documentary Rethink Afghanistan that's being held at the University of Regina (College West 113) at 7 p.m. Here's the trailer (YouTube)