I’m in mourning today. All of America should be. Kurt Vonnegut died, at the age of 84. Vonnegut was brilliant. Sharp, biting, his satirical novels and short stories carved him a place in American pop culture, a culture he mocked. Slaughterhouse-Five is his best known work, but I remember him most for having the guts to go his own way, not give a damn what anyone else thought and shock people, not to be popular, but to make them sit up and pay attention to what’s going on in the world. To think for themselves for a change.
An iconoclast who was a POW during WWII, (you know, the big one?), he was against censorship, was for saving the planet (he once suggested writing on the wall of the Grand Canyon, "we probably could have saved ourselves, but we were too damned lazy to try very hard... and too damn cheap," as a message to aliens who might landed there) and soul-growing society through diffuse art to block the increasing numbing of America through TV.
We need more folk heroes like Vonnegut. Folk heroes who stand for intelligent debate, shock us with their brilliant wit and crude humor and make us think for a change. Instead, we have shock jocks whose main goal is to increase their ratings and in the process, say cruel and racist things. I seriously doubt Vonnegut would have called the Rutgers female basketball players, “nappy-headed hos.”
The whole Imus debacle makes me wonder about the so-called dumbing down of America. A few months ago, Dh and I rented Idiocracy. The flick (Ethan Cohen co-wrote it with Mike Judge) was hilarious, and disturbing. It’s about the true dumbing down of America. In the movie, (spoiler alert!!) people in present-day America are intelligent and evolved. In the future, they’re dumber than shit. Honestly. That’s the only way to describe it. The mega corporation Brawndo manufactures a sports drink that people use for everything, from flushing their toilets to irrigating their crops, which is causing a food shortage and they don’t know WHY the crops won’t grow. The Brawndo advertising slogan is recited like we used to mumble Sunday School cathechism.
The movie left me disturbed because although it’s satire, you can see flecks of it here and there in today’s society. When American Idol is the number one show, and newspapers are struggling to breathe (look at the Tribune take-over, I have friends who work for Tribune papers) and people are more concerned with what happens to Anna Nicole’s rotting corpse than anything else, will Idocracy become our future? Are we becoming more passive as a nation, nodding like those head bobble dolls at everything thrown at us?
I sometimes wonder if it’s because we’re trying to do too much, cram too much, work too much, play too much and at the end of the day, we’re so freaking tired that shows like American Idol are all we can stand. I work at an emotionally draining day job. I also write romance novels at night. There's bills to pay, family health problems, birthdays, dogs to care for, you name it and I have two more books due this year. And sometimes I’m so exhausted all I want is mindless entertainment.
I too, am in danger of becoming a bobble doll. It’s times like that when I need a good kick in the brain and remind myself make the effort to reach for something better. It’s times like that when I find myself weeping for the demise of brilliance like Vonnegut. We need more folk heroes like him.