Friday, May 26, 2017

May 26: A Broken Kite, PTSD, Honor and Respect

Hold on.  This is a longer passage from Slaughterhouse:

There was silence now, as the Englishmen looked in astonishment at the frowsy creatures they had so lustily waltzed inside.  One of the Englishmen saw that Billy was on fire.  "You're on fire, lad!" he said, and he got Billy away from the stove and beat out the sparks with his hands.

When Billy made no comment on this, the Englishman touched him exploratorily here and there, filled with pity.  "My God--what have they done to you, lad?  This isn't a man.  It's a broken kite."

"Are you really an American?" said the Englishman.

"Yes," said Billy.

"And your rank?"


"What became of your boots, lad?"

"I don't remember."

"Is that coat a joke?"


"Where did you get such a thing?"

Billy had to think hard about that.  "They gave it to me," he said at last.

"Jerry gave it to you?"


"The Germans gave it to you?"


Billy didn't like the questions.  They were fatiguing.

"Ohhhh--Yank, Yank, Yank--" said the Englishman, "that coat was an insult."


"It was a deliberate attempt to humiliate you.  You mustn't let Jerry do things like that."

Billy Pilgrim swooned.

Billy came to on a chair facing the stage.  He had somehow eaten, and now he was watching Cinderella.  Some part of him had evidently been enjoying the performance for quite a while.  Billy was laughing hard.

The women in the play were really men, of course.  The clock had just struck midnight, and Cinderella was lamenting:

          "Goodness me, the clock has struck-- 
            Alackday, and fuck my luck."

Billy found the couplet so comical that he not only laughed--he shrieked.  He went on shrieking until he was carried out of the shed and into another, where the hospital was.  It was a six-bed hospital.  There weren't any other patients there.

Whew.  That was a long one.  Billy is teetering on the verge of a nervous breakdown.  He blacks out.  Eats.  Sits and watched the entertainment that the Englishmen provide.  Then, he falls into the canyon of mental illness, shrieking with laughter.  It is probably PTSD, after the long train ride without sleep and the German delousing shower/gas chamber.

At the beginning of Memorial Day weekend, I think this passage is fairly important.  There are so many combat veterans in the United States who suffer from PTSD.  Just this past Sunday, a friend from church (and a veteran) told me that he is going away for six weeks of treatment for PTSD.  For this man, the firecrackers of the Fourth of July are triggers for panic attacks and flashbacks.  Instead of going to parades and picnics, he spends most of the holiday at home, in the dark, teetering like Billy.

I often forget to be thankful for the freedoms I have in this country.  I can criticize the President of the United States and government, peacefully demonstrate, hold unpopular opinions.  I can do all this without fear for my life or safety.  Those rights are guaranteed to me by the United States Constitution (regardless of what Donald Trump says), and that Constitution has been defended and protected over and over, through the centuries, by brave men and women who were/are willing to risk their lives to preserve it.

I am not getting all nationalistic here.  I think nationalism is dangerous.  What I am saying is that there are people who have sacrificed greatly so that I can say what I want to say, live the way I want to live.  And those people deserve honor and respect, whether they are living or dead.

Tonight, Saint Marty is thankful for those who have defended his freedom.

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