Dear Mr. Vonnegut,

BY Kurt Vonnegut

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The recent Kurt Vonnegut interview (“Kurt Vonnegut vs. !&#*@,” February 17, 2003) has become the most popular story at InTheseTimes.com, with hundreds of readers expressing their opinions in the “comment” section. The interview has also been translated and reprinted in Aftonbladet, Sweden’s largest daily newspaper, and La Jornada, Mexico’s most respected daily newspaper. In light of this response, Vonnegut has agreed, on an occasional basis, to entertain readers’ questions. If you would like to submit a question, write to [email protected], and we’ll pass along your question to him.

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What genuinely motivates al-Qaeda to kill and self-destruct? The president says, “They hate our freedoms—our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other,” which surely is not what has been learned from the captives being held in Guantanamo, or what he is told in his briefings. Why do the communications industry and our elected politicians allow Bush to get away with such nonsense? And how can there ever be peace, and even trust in our leaders, if the American people aren’t told the truth?

Peter Hoyt, Little Deer Island, Maine

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Dear Mr. Hoyt,

One wishes that those who have taken over our federal government, and hence the world, by means of a Mickey Mouse coup d’etat, and who have disconnected all the burglar alarms prescribed by the Constitution, which is to say the House and Senate and the Supreme Court and We the People, were truly Christian. But as William Shakespeare told us long ago, “The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.”

And what remains the best-kept secret from the Second World War, because it is so embarrassing, is that Hitler was a Christian, and that his swastika was a Christian cross made of axes, an apt symbol of a political party for Christians of the working class. And there were simpler, unambiguous crosses on all Hitler’s tanks and planes.

Again: One wishes, for the sake of the whole planet, that the people in and around the White House nowadays truly mean it when they say, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” and that they respect as children of God the losers, the nobodies so loved by Jesus in the Beatitudes, in His Sermon on the Mount: the poor in spirit, they that mourn, the meek, the merciful, the peace makers and so on.

But such is obviously not the case. George W. Bush smirks and gloats unmercifully as he boasts of his readiness to loose more than a hundred cruise missiles, what I call “Timothy McVeighs,” into the midst of the general population of Iraq, nearly half of whom are children, little boys and girls under the age of 15.

His domestic policies, whose viciousness is peewee in comparison with what he is so eager to do to foreigners who don’t look like him and talk like him, who don’t have names like his, nonetheless inflict pain on those Americans of the sort enumerated in the Beatitudes, by depriving them of decent health care and educations, and of food, shelter and clothing when times are bad. It seems quite possible that his opinion of the American people has been formed while watching the Jerry Springer Show, which is Republican propaganda of the most pernicious kind.

But America was certainly hated all around the world long before this coup d’etat. And we weren’t hated, as George W. Bush would have it, because of our liberty and justice for all. We are hated because our corporations have been the principal deliverers and imposers of new technologies and economic schemes that have wrecked the self-respect, the cultures of men, women and children in so many other societies.

It’s that simple.

What are we to do when confronted by such hatred? Respond to Code Red and run around like chickens with their heads cut off.

Keep in touch,
Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut, the legendary author, WWII veteran, humanist, artist and smoker, was an In These Times senior editor until his death in April 2007. His classic works include Slaughterhouse-Five, Breakfast of Champions and Cat's Cradle, among many others. The last book by him published before his death, A Man Without a Country (2005), collects many of the articles he wrote for this magazine.

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