Book Review: A Man Without A Country

For my recent birthday my best mate sent to me Kurt Vonnegut’s A Man Without A Country. It was on my wishlist.

The book is a short 145 pages and only took a couple hours to read. It is packed with wisdom, humor and insight. Here are a few quotations.

Referring to Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, Vonnegut wrote:

Want a taste of a great book? He says, and he said it 169 years ago, that in no country other than ours has love of money taken a stronger hold on the affections of men. Okay?

How timely. Some things never change, it seems.

People are so afraid. Take the man, with no address, who wrote:

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?

I wrote back:

Please, for the sake of us all, 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.

I could not agree more. The Bush Doctrine of preemption is immoral and dangerous.

To a lady who wrote asking if she should bring a child into this “frightening world”, Kurt responded:

The kid would be lucky to be born into a society where even the poor people are overweight but unlucky to be in one without a national health plan or decent public education for most, where lethal injection and warfare are forms of entertainment, and where it costs an arm and a leg to go to college. This would not be the case if the kid were a Canuck or Swede or Limey or Frog or Kraut. So either go on practicing safe sex or emigrate.

Go America. (Remember, there are few things as truly American as criticizing America.)

Doesn’t anything socialist make you want to throw up? Like great public schools, or health insurance for all?

When you get out of bed each morning, with the roosters crowing, wouldn’t you like to say. “As long as there is a lower class, I am in it. As long as there is a criminal element, I am of it. As long as there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”

How about Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes?

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.

And so on.

Not exactly planks of the Republican platform. Not exactly George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, or Donald Rumsfeld stuff.

Don’t we all have a responsibility to lift humanity? I think Jesus would be a bleeding-heart liberal Democrat.

My favorite quote from the book is about the Ten Commandments.

For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes. But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings.

“Blessed are the merciful” in a courtroom?

“Blessed are the peacemakers” in the Pentagon?

Give me a break!

Thanks, Steven. I love the book. I was first introduced to Vonnegut in Playboy Magazine. He’s a national treasure.

4 Replies to “Book Review: A Man Without A Country”

  1. I’m your best mate? Aww.

    I guess I’m also the only person that reads this blog :-)

    The only Vonnegut book I have read is Slaughterhouse Five, in my early twenties (so, like, 15 or so years ago). Loved it. So it goes.

  2. …oh and of course I saw the movie of Breakfast of Champions – but I don’t recall ever reading the book.

  3. Blessed are the merciful and/or blessed are the peacemakers just wouldn’t fit well with the death penalty or war in Iraq now would it?

  4. @stevenpam – yes.

    @DJ – I’m perplexed at how Christ’s Beatitudes and the platform of the Christian Right (Republican base) are so diametrically opposed.

    *scratches head*

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