Friday, May 16, 2003

Kurt Vonnegut's Mustache

In April, Kurt Vonnegut delivered a lecture for the Mark Twain House. Naturally, of course, he took the opportunity to say nasty things about conservatives. And naturally, he began with a remark about his mustache:
First things first: I want it clearly understood that this mustache I’m wearing is my father’s mustache.
Thanks for clearing that up. I know that Ernie and I, like a lot of people, have been at loggerheads over this issue:
"Bill, you fool, Vonnegut is wearing his dad's mustache, as any mugwump can plainly see."
"How can a man wear another man's mugwump?"
"Mustache! Mustache!"
"Oh right. What'd I say?"
Vonnegut continues:
What other American landmark is as sacred to me as the Mark Twain House?
How would I know? I'm still reeling from your mustache disclosure.
I note that construction has stopped of a Mark Twain Museum here in Hartford ...

Work persons have been sent home from that site because American “conservatives,” as they call themselves, on Wall Street and at the head of so many of our corporations, have stolen a major fraction of our private savings, have ruined investors and employees by means of fraud and outright piracy.

Oh, now I get it. No I don't. Is Kurt wearing one of those helmets he describes in "Harrison Bergeron" that prevent people from having a thought longer than a few seconds?
And now, having installed themselves as our federal government, or taken control of it from outside, they have squandered our public treasury and then some.
Oh, now I do get it. No I don't. Is he talking about war? Tax cuts? The bloated bureaucracies created by "liberals," as they call themselves?
They have created a public debt of such appalling magnitude that our descendants ...
Debt is also caused by spending too much. Who likes to get and spend public money in ever-increasing amounts?
What are the conservatives doing with all the money and power that used to belong to all of us?
Trying to give it back to us?
They are telling us to be absolutely terrified, and to run around in circles like chickens with their heads cut off. But they will save us.
The only one telling Americans to be terrified are lefties who think that Bush is Hitler, that free speech is dead, that Ashcroft's squads are coming after everyone, and so on.
They are making us take off our shoes at airports. Can anybody here think of a more hilarious practical joke than that one?
Yes, there was the time when Clinton said he wanted to create the most ethical administration of all time.
And they have turned loose a myriad of our high-tech weapons, each one costing more than a hundred high schools, on a Third World country, in order to shock and awe human beings like us, like Adam and Eve, between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.
Oh yes, the "how-can-we-bomb-the-cradle-of-civilization?" argument. Here's how: the cradle of civilization was in the hands of a mad man who didn't give a squat for "human beings like us, like Adam and Eve." As for high tech weapons, their cost is worth it; for the first time in history, it's now possible to avoid the bloodbaths of previous wars.
The other day I asked former Yankees pitcher Jim Bouton what he thought of our great victory over Iraq, and he said, “Mohammed Ali versus Mr. Rogers.”
I don't recall Mr. Rogers being a murdering thug who tried to take over Kuwait, wipe out the Kurds, repress Shiite Muslims, drain the water out of an entire ecosystem, and harass his own citizenry. Let me make the point clear: the justness of taking out a dictator is not related to whether he has a powerful military or not. The notion that is somehow unfair for a country X to go to war against country Y when Y cannot possibly defeat X is silly; any country can commit an act of war regardless of its military strength.
Conservatives are crazy as bedbugs.
I can't help but think here of a scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Mr. Wonka describes a candy that lets you spit in several different colors. Violet Beauregarde, picking her nose, responds: "Spitting is a dirty habit." Wonka retorts: "I know a worse one."

Kurt, I know a crazier bedbug.

They have proved their superiority to admirers of Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain and Jesus of Nazareth, with an able assist from television, making inconsequential our protests against their war.
Oh, now I really do get it. No I don't. Let me see: conservatives and television are on one side, and on the other side are admirers of Lincoln, Twain, and Christ. Moreover, the latter are anti-war and the former are pro-war. I didn't realize that admirers of Lincoln, Twain, and Christ who oppose the war formed such a homogenous group. Do they have a club? Are there meetings that one could go to? Can I be an admirer of Lincoln, Twain, and Christ and not be anti-war?
What has happened to us? We have suffered a technological calamity. Television is now our form of government.
There went Kurt's helmet again.
On what grounds did we protest their war? I could name many, but I need name only one, which is common sense.
Yes, the anti-war movement as a whole was characterized by dignity, sobriety, depth of argument, poise, and common sense.

Kurt goes on to yammer about the Mexican War, but I'll skip it.

My great-grandfather’s name was Clemens Vonnegut.... So, 120 years ago, say, there was one man who was both Clemens and Vonnegut. I would have liked being such a person a lot.
Look, I already don't understand how one man can wear another man's mustache; how am I supposed to make sense of one man being two men and then Kurt being those two men?

I'll finish, appropriately, with a quote from Mark Twain:

All Democrats are insane, but not one of them knows it; none but the Republicans and the Mugwumps know it. All Republicans are insane, but only the Democrats and the Mugwumps can perceive it. The rule is perfect: in all matters of opinion our adversaries are insane.
What the heck is a Mugwump?

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