Cat’s Cradle and Memorial Day

I just finished reading “Cat’s Cradle” by Kurt Vonnegut. “Cat’s Cradle” is a very powerful book and very depressing.

Vonnegut’s harsh commentary on modern humanity and religion is hilarious in a dark way. The points he raises with his themes are so simple and logical and black with despair that when you finish reading it you feel both enriched and discarded.

One of his major ideas was the useless horror of war. I actually have been thinking about this myself for awhile now. I can remember when I was a young boy and my grandpa would tell me old war stories and make it sound noble and heroic. He would say that war is hell, but necessary at times and I agreed then. As I’ve gotten older and thought on it further I no longer can do that. I don’t see how you can ever justify the deaths of young, hopeful, beautiful men and women. For instance, in World War 2, 4.8 MILLION German men were killed and another 4 million were seriously wounded. That means 1 in 5 men in Germany were dead or seriously wounded by the end of the war. Put another way, an entire generation of young men and boys lives were destroyed. And that is just the German casualties… it doesn’t include the other 51 million men killed in action. How can that ever be justified? I think people don’t wrap their minds around the horror of this. These weren’t nameless, faceless automatons. Every one of them had a family, friends, hopes, fears, perhaps a dog or maybe a lover. Most of them were only 18 years old and should have had long, happy lives ahead of them. Instead they were murdered for the naked ambition and blind hate of old men. I have three younger brothers and the thought of losing even one is completely devastating. Imagine what a single dollar can buy you- a candy bar? Not much. Now imagine how incredibly wealthy you would be with $55 million. A human life is worth infinitely more than a dollar; one of the greatest human treasures in history was crushed in a single war. Thinking about this is staggering and when you add the the weight of all the other wars, purges and genocides it crushes me.

What are these wars fought for? What is the reason for genocide? Why have countless bright young people been stamped out? Usually it is either for or against some form of fundamentalism. Fundamentalism is a overwhelming belief in a religion or ideology that allows no room for second thoughts or the admission of new evidence. Fundamentalists believe in the absolute superiority of their convictions and the need to push them at any cost. 5 ideologies in particular have accounted for 99% of the pointless murders in this century: Communism, National Socialism, Democracy, Christianity and Islam. Think of the horrors that blind belief in these systems has caused. Hundreds of millions have died in the last century and billions of people have had loved ones torn away from them.

The war on terror is the most ridiculous concept I’ve ever heard of. How do you have a war on a conceptual idea? A war on a tactic? It’s like having a war on the 3-4 defense in football or a war on ballet or a war on math? Not only that, but “terrorism” is a relative term to the side you are fighting on. When we fire missiles off of a carrier in the Mediterranean and blow up some guy’s house in Iraq that’s war; when that guy’s brother plants a bomb on a Humvee in retaliation that’s terrorism. Let’s be honest with ourselves: this is not a war on terror, it’s merely a new incarnation of the centuries old wars between Christianity and Islam. President Bush has cast it as a war on terror because to do otherwise would be political suicide. The wars between religions had basically died down over the last few hundred years after people realized how much evil each supposedly good religion had caused. Now the pot is getting stirred up again (the civil war in Iraq, the fundamentalist president of Iraq, the “moral majority” in America) and I fear that my generation will have to pay the price in the form of another massive war in the future. According to a recent report by the U.N., Iran is 3-8 years away from having nuclear weapons. What will happen if a united Middle East with nuclear weapons and an Islamic fundamentalist leader faces America with nuclear weapons and a Christian fundamentalist leader?

I think our parents and grandparents generations have screwed our generation here in America. They have amassed a massive national debt so they could spend it on themselves in the form of Social Security, welfare, wars, etc. We will have to be the ones to pay it down or face economic collapse. Over the last 50 years they have stirred up a hornets nest in the Middle East and made almost every nation on earth hate us. They have given arms and technology and cash to Islamic fundamentalists who have directly stated their desire for our destruction in return for oil. They have indoctrinated us with “intelligent design” and fundamentalist Christianity. The table is set just like it was before World War 2: an America in a desperate recession facing angry countries prepared to go on the war path. Will my generation be the next to be killed almost to a man for the disgusting greed of old people blinded by prejudice and hate? The technology currently possessed by the world is far beyond what we had 60 years ago when we killed tens of millions… we now have nuclear, biological, chemical and traditional weapons with power thousands of times more devastating then we did before. Do not doubt for a second that our leaders would use these weapons; they have before (Hiroshima, Nagasaki, WW1 when millions were killed by chemical weapons).

Celebrating Memorial Day is an awful concept. Why do we celebrate the murders of millions of boys and young men who should’ve been playing with their friends, chasing girls and their dreams? These guys, usually my age and younger, were ripped apart with bullets, burned horribly, bombed and tortured. These guys had pretty girls at home who loved them, mothers and fathers left alone in their old age and friends and brothers who wish they could have died instead. All for what? Fucking fundamentalism. Old men who thought their way was the only way. Crusty, burned out shells. Hitler. Stalin. FDR. Churchill. Bush. Saddam. Mao. Nixon. Murderers. I think that this is the most depressing day of the year.

The only way I can see our generation being able to squelch the wars and misery coming fast upon us would be to bring about a single government for the entire world. Then those who kill and cause misery upon others can be prosecuted as criminals like they should instead of having their names celebrated. Memorial Day should be kept, but transformed into a day when all of humanity remembers why we should have one government and how terrible war is and the pointless sacrifice of millions of young mens lives. Unfortunately, I think the chance of this happening in the near future is very small and thus hold almost no hope for the future. There will probably be another global war in ten to thirty years and only after billions have died will people finally realize what needs to be done.

Have a happy Memorial Day.

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Joel Gross

Joel Gross is the CEO of Coalition Technologies.

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