Return To Tralfamadore
Recently I have been thinking about the differences between movies and books, and some of the better movies that have been based on books.
I read “Slaughterhouse-Five” in college. It was actually a book that was featured in some of my high school’s English classes, but never in one of mine. I had read “Cat’s Cradle” first, and at 19 I was blown away by it. Reading it again in my 30’s was kind of disappointing, but that doesn’t change my opinion. At 19 it was a revelation. I quickly consumed many more books by Vonnegut, and though I can’t remember the order, I think I read “SH5” and “The Sirens of Titan” back to back just after “Cat’s Cradle.”
Back then, I was intrigued by the science fiction and philosophical aspects of the novel to a greater degree than I was by the anti-war message. I think that was probably because by the mid 70’s it was expected that people were anti-war. If you weren’t, you were an asshole. Of course war was bad. We were all still weary from Viet Nam.
I didn’t see the film until the early 80’s. I’m guessing it was 1983 or 1984. I probably rented it. I’m sure I liked it, and from memory I think I judged it pretty faithful to the book.
I watched it again this weekend. I thought it was great. It reminded me of how so much has changed since the film was made and since I’d read the book and seen the film. Now it seems you’re an asshole if you’re anti-war. And a pussy. And un-American. And un-patriotic. And a lover of terrorists. And a friend of brutal dictators. And a coward.
I somehow missed a huge bit of irony the first time around the “SH5” flick. During the clean-up after the bombing of Dresden, good guy Derby and only friend to protagonist Billy Pilgrim finds a figurine identical to the one that was accidentally broken back home. When asked about it by the Germans, he showed it to them without guile, because for whatever reason it didn’t click that taking it was verboten.
They shot him.
A couple days later some other guys are seen looting a grandfather clock and it gets dropped on Billy. The Germans ignore it and move on.
So it goes.
Our culture has seemingly become inured to the horrors of war. Even now as the tide is ever so slowly turning, many people still don’t know what war is. What it does to people.
Funny thing about these conservatives. They decry liberals and intellectuals for being relativists. You know. "The buck has to stop someplace. Everything can’t be ok I’m_ok_you’re_ ok ok. Ok?"
Except when it comes to war. In a war, you can just kill people because that is what war is. War is the ultimate suspension of morality. Everything is ok if it is a war. It’s like hall pass in the school of decency. It’s like a get_out_of_jail_free card in “Monopoly – The Jesus Edition.” Soldiers can break into someone’s house, kill everyone, and then go, “Oops. Wrong house.” And then move on. Let’s go have a beer and talk to the Chaplain.
Or you can bomb an entire non-military target city famous for its delicate artwork and historical architecture, and kill 100,000 people.
WWII. Maybe it could have been avoided, but since it wasn’t we did what we had to do. I don’t know if we had to bomb Dresden or not. I don’t know if we had to drop the second nuke on Japan or not. Doesn’t matter now. That shit happens in war. Which is why us asshole, pussy, un-American, un-patriotic etc. liberals believe it should be the last resort after all other alternatives have been exhausted.
Maybe life is just a collection of moments, and maybe we just have to struggle through the bad ones and enjoy the good ones.
Maybe, just maybe next time we’ll remember this time -- and say “no.”
Don't forget this week's Top 10.