Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Thank You Mr. Vonnegut

“Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies — ‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”

(Kurt Vonnegut, November 11, 1922-April 11, 2007)

The day that Kurt Vonnegut died I was going to write something around that quote because it's the one that I felt described what was so important about him as a writer and as a man. I was going to write how he knew about kindness because he also knew about cruelty, the kind of cruelty only another human can inflict upon another. I was going to write that Kurt Vonnegut the man had suffered the indignity of being no more than a name and number inside the enemy's meat locker so that Kurt Vonnegut the writer could try and teach us that all human beings have value. I was going to write that the sadness inside his soul, that unbearable sorrow you could see in his eyes was what made love such a vital force in his writings. I was going to write about myself and how I grew and found the courage to be who I am from reading his words grown from pain, suffering, disillusionment, and a life that went on longer than the man himself.

But the days went by as I kept saying tomorrow I will get to it, tomorrow I will write about how important it was to be kind. And I was going to write about the horrors, the absolute evil that happens when you are not kind. I promised myself that tomorrow I would write about how it feels to be disenfranchised from the human race by those who felt it was their place to judge another human being. I promised myself that tomorrow I would write about the sadness that held tinges of anger for those hurt by the perpetually foolish act of loving another human being too much, and the even more preposterous idea that you can love someone too much. I was going to write about the pain of losing a friend, a lover, a confidant, a heart connection because you weren't good enough, pretty enough, handsome enough to keep them in a world where second best becomes insignificant.

I was going to write about how Kurt Vonnegut the writer kept me alive during some of the darkest times of my life by reminding me that love was stronger than hate, that it didn't take everyone to love to make the world a better place, that it could be done a handful at a time if those people believed in the power of love strongly enough. I was willing to be one of those people, a sort of flawed missionary of love willing to help spread this amazing truth. It made such sense to me. It was so simple. All we had to do was be kind to each other and the rest would take care of itself. It made so much sense.

And I had been hurt enough by love, by false friendships, by people who only took and never gave back that I believed I could be an effective missionary. I'd suffered with the best of them, been wounded and betrayed by the worst of them. I'd loved the total bastards, befriended the selfish, trusted the wrong people, and I was raised by people whose bodies survived too many wars to ever leave their hearts intact. I'd been used, abused, dumped, forgotten, put at the bottom of the list enough times to have respectable credentials to flash when I said love was a choice we all make. I earned those credentials by continuing to love the abusers, users, shit spouting so-called friends for life who tried to take that away from me and failed. I wanted to thank Kurt Vonnegut for their failure to strip me of what he gave to me the first time I read his words: an unbreakable, unshakable, unwavering belief in the power of love.

And then a sick, twisted, excuse-ridden, disturbed discard of society shot up a school and I couldn't write a word until today when I finally stopped crying. I had to write today because there is this burning question in me that won't go away: would it have made a damn bit of difference if people had been kind to this sick bastard? Would it? And on the off chance that the answer is yes, then isn't it way past time that we start being kind, that we stop making war on each other, that we stop drawing lines in the sand and saying this is your side and this is my side, that we stop punishing those who are different, those who aren't pretty enough, those who aren't handsome enough, those who have no social skills to save them from all the punishments that can be inflicted on them simply for being who they are. Isn't it past time that we start living as human to human instead of thing to thing? Isn't it about damn time we started being kind?

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