Dear Mr. Vonnegut,

Kurt Vonnegut

The other day I was asked to do the now common act of taking off my shoes at the airport security screening. As I deposited my shoes in the tray, a sense of utter absurdity washed over me. I have to take my shoes off and have them scanned by an X-ray machine because some guy tried to blow up an airliner with his sneakers. And I thought, I feel like I’m in a world not even Kurt Vonnegut could have imagined. So now that I find I can ask you such questions, tell me, could you have imagined it? (We’re in real trouble if someone figures out how to make explosive pants.)

Patrick Mazza

Dear Patrick,
The shoe thing at the airports and Code Orange and so on are world-class practical jokes, all right. But my all-time favorite is one the holy, anti-war clown Abbie Hoffman (1936-1989) pulled off during the Vietnam War. He announced that the new high was banana peels taken rectally. So then FBI scientists stuffed banana peels up their asses to find out if this was true or not. Or so we hoped.


My first question is: Do you think Bush has lost his mind, or has he always been this insanely evil? My second question is: Do you expect the war on Iraq will turn out to be as catastrophic as Vietnam?

Kevin Hatton
Lake Orion, Michigan

Dear Kevin,
I sure hope not.


I have not so much a comment or a question for you, but rather a request: Please tell me it will all be OK.

Joe Cararie

Dear Joe,
Welcome to Earth, young man. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, Joe, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of: Goddamn it, Joe, you’ve got to be kind!


If you knew that a man posed a danger to you—maybe he had a gun in his pocket, and you felt that he would not hesitate one moment to use it on you—what would you do?

We know Iraq poses a threat to us, to the rest of the world. Why do we sit here and pretend we are protected? That is exactly what happened with al-Qaeda and 9/11. With Iraq, though, the threat is on a much larger scale. Should we sit back, be little children that sit in fear and just wait?

Charles Perkins
Address withheld

Dear Charles,
Please, for the sake of all of us, get a shotgun, preferably a 12-gauge double-barrel, and right there in your own neighborhood blow off the heads of people, cops excepted, who may be armed.


How can the American public be so stupid? People still believe that Bush was elected, that he cares about us and has some idea of what he is doing. How can we “save” people by killing them and destroying their country? How can we strike first on the belief that we will soon be attacked? No sense, no reason, no moral grounds have gotten through to him. He is nothing but a moron puppet leading us all over the precipice. Why can’t people see that the military dictator in the White House has no clothes?

Devon Warner
San Francisco

Dear Devon,
Mark Twain (1835-1910) in 1898, long before the First World War (1914-1918), wrote “The Mysterious Stranger.” In that tale he proves to his own grim satisfaction, and to mine as well, that Satan and not God created the planet Earth and “the damned human race.”

If you still doubt that we are demons in Hell, Devon, which I guess you don’t, please read “The Mysterious Stranger” or your morning paper. Never mind what paper. Never mind what date.


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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.
Illustrated cover of Gaza issue. Illustration shows an illustrated representation of Gaza, sohwing crowded buildings surrounded by a wall on three sides. Above the buildings is the sun, with light shining down. Above the sun is a white bird. Text below the city says: All Eyes on Gaza
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