Wednesday, January 4, 2017

January 4: Dirty Old Men, Liberal Thing, Baby Killer

"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.

Vonnegut is visiting a war buddy in Cape Cod, to talk about their shared experiences and the bombing of Dresden.  Vonnegut's still struggling with his war book, and he's trying to gather material.  He is sitting in the kitchen with his buddy when his buddy's wife confronts him.  She is furious at the idea of Vonnegut's book, accusing him of wanting to glorify war, thereby perpetuating it.

I understand the wife's anger.   A lot of adults don't think enough about the future.  Don't reflect on the repercussions of their actions.  Writers write books about war, making it sound glorious and heroic.  (Now, there certainly are heroes in war, but those heroes are not generally celebrated for taking lives.  They are celebrated saving lives.  But most of war is terrifying and bloody, fought by young people who are only a few years out of high school.  Babies, as Vonnegut's friend's wife says.)

Business people drill for oil without thinking of renewable energy sources.  Politicians repeal laws that help the poor.  Countries close their borders to refugees who are starving and terrified.  There are immediate benefits to all of these actions.  More and cheaper gasoline.  Balanced governmental budgets.  A false sense of security.  In the end, however, our children will suffer.

Vonnegut befriends his buddy's wife by making a promise about his book:  "I tell you what . . . I'll call it The Children's Crusade."

Vonnegut was an old liberal.  I'm getting to be an old liberal.  A lot of people view the word "liberal" as some kind of insult, akin to "baby killer" or "ecoterrorist."  I don't get that.  Here's a question I always think about when it comes to the difference between being liberal and conservative:  If I were going to a dinner that included my favorite food in the whole world, would I want a conservative portion, or would I want a liberal portion?

Jesus Christ did not love conservatively.  He loved liberally--Jews, gentiles, men, women, children, beggars, thieves, prostitutes, lepers, tax collectors, soldiers, prisoners.  There was no holding back.  Above all, Jesus loved children, the "babies" as Vonnegut's friend's wife calls them.  In the babies, Christ saw the future of the world.

As you can tell, I'm thinking a lot about the future this evening, because of the incoming President of the United States; of the daily reports of terrorist attacks in places like Turkey and Syria; of the people who believe global warming is some kind of Chinese conspiracy theory; of the alarming worldwide trend to ignore or deny the needs of the poor and homeless and displaced.

Taking care of these problems is not a liberal thing or a conservative thing or a Christian thing or a Muslim thing.  It's not a Democrat thing or a Republican thing.  It's a human thing.  As Vonnegut says, it's a crusade for the children.

Saint Marty is liberally grateful for his kids tonight.

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