Kurt Vonnegut was one of the most brilliant writers ever. He took a look at everyday life and translated it into a language of whimsy and absurdist fancy. At the same time he cut to the core of the human experience and conveyed an all-knowing sense of how we got ourselves into the big fat mess we’re in.
He served in the U.S. Army during World War II, and as he wrote in Slaughterhouse-Five and other books, he witnessed, as a POW, the devastating firebombing of the city of Dresden in 1945, in which over 135,000 were killed. Vonnegut recalled “utter destruction” and “carnage unfathomable.” The Germans put him and other POW’s to work gathering bodies for mass burial.
In the special introduction to the 1976 Franklin Library edition of Slaughterhouse-Five, Vonnegut wrote:
The Dresden atrocity, tremendously expensive and meticulously planned, was so meaningless, finally, that only one person on the entire planet got any benefit from it. I am that person. I wrote this book, which earned a lot of money for me and made my reputation, such as it is. One way or another, I got two or three dollars for every person killed. Some business I’m in.
Sadly for all of us, Kurt Vonnegut’s voice was silenced when he passed away at the age of 84 in 2007, although there have been books published posthumously. Kurt would probably be saddened to know he is no longer with us, since he would be having a field day with the presidential election of 2016 and the absurdity that passes for sanity, especially the absurdity that spouts from the mouth of Donald Trump.
Since Vonnegut lived in New York City for many years, it’s possible he and Trump crossed paths, even if just in a passing manner. If Vonnegut had met or known Trump somewhere along the way, he may never have guessed that Trump would become the dangerous buffoon he has become.
If Kurt were alive today to see what Donald Trump was saying, he would have known that the last Trump-like public figure to garner a large audience and following by saying the most vile things before Trump was Father Charles Couglin.
Father Couglin was a controversial Roman Catholic priest based in the United States and was one of the first political leaders to use radio to reach a mass audience, with up to thirty million listeners tuned to his weekly broadcasts during the 1930s.
Early in his radio career, Coughlin was a vocal supporter of Franklin D. Roosevelt and his New Deal. By 1934 he had become a harsh critic of Roosevelt, accusing him of being too friendly to bankers. In 1934 he established a new political organization called the National Union for Social Justice. He issued a platform calling for monetary reforms, the nationalization of major industries and railroads, and protection of the rights of labor. The membership ran into the millions, but it was not well-organized at the local level.
After hinting at attacks on Jewish bankers, Coughlin began to use his radio program to issue antisemitic commentary, and in the late 1930s to support some of the policies of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. The broadcasts have been called “a variation of the Fascist agenda applied to American culture.”
Father Coughlin’s influence was significant and his tens of millions of followers were rabid in support of him. During the last half of 1938, the magazine he published, Social Justice, reprinted in weekly installments the fraudulent, antisemitic text The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The Protocols was a Russian forgery that purports to expose a Jewish conspiracy to seize control of the world.
The Protocols of the Elders of Zion are still cited by many paranoid conspiracy theorists as proof positive that a cabal of Jewish bankers maintain control of the world and lives of every inhabitant.
It was first published in Russia in 1903, translated into multiple languages, and disseminated internationally in the early part of the 20th century. According to the claims made by some of its publishers, the Protocols are the minutes of a late 19th-century meeting where Jewish leaders discussed their goal of global Jewish hegemony by subverting the morals of non-Jews, and by controlling the press and the world’s economies.
Henry Ford funded printing of 500,000 copies that were distributed throughout the US in the 1920s. Adolf Hitler was a major proponent. It was studied, as if factual, in German classrooms after the Nazis came to power in 1933, despite having been exposed as fraudulent by The Times of London in 1921. It is still widely available today in numerous languages, in print and on the Internet, and continues to be presented by some proponents as a genuine document.
With the crazy and extremist views that this antisemitic text expressed, Coughlin began to say even further outlandish things, claiming that Jewish bankers were behind the Russian Revolution and that Russian Bolshevism was a disproportionately Jewish phenomenon.
Where Trump attacks Muslims as the cause of all evil, back then Couglin attacked Jews as the cause of all evil, and used as his proof a document that was a pure hoax, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Kurt Vonnegut never crossed paths with Father Coughlin, except in an alternate universe populated by his dreams. And in that dreaming universe, Vonnegut’s alter ego, the science fiction writer Kilgore Trout, who appears in many of Vonnegut’s novels, showed up Father Coughlin and Donald Trump by writing the story The Protocol of the Elders of Tralfamadore.
Kilgore Trout, who was a prolific writer of 117 novels and 2000 short stories, was also, sadly, an unsuccessful writer whose works primarily were used only as filler material in pornographic magazines – The Protocol of the Elders of Tralfamadore itself first appeared in the porno magazine Blackgarterbelt.
Some believe that Trout made a living by allowing himself to appear in many of Vonnegut’s books and being paid for those appearances. It’s not clear how Trout paid his bills, but without a doubt it wasn’t because of the royalties he received from his writings. It’s only posthumously that Trout has received more critical attention and acclaim, and a reappraisal of his writing career.
And one of his stories that critics have now revisited with praise is The Protocol of the Elders of Tralfamadore. With it, the critics can see how Trout mocked Father Coughlin and the Elders of Zion craziness.
In The Protocol of the Elders of Tralfamadore, Kilgore Trout locates the planet Tralfamadore as the planet nearest to a meeting place of ancient multi-dimensional beings who supposedly control all aspects of human life, including social affairs and politics. But unlike humans, the Tralfamadorians were not affected by these all-controlling beings, due to the fact that Tralfamadorians have too much of a sense of humor to believe that anyone can control all aspects of human life.
So while Father Couglin, Donald Trump, and all the rest of the paranoid conspiracy buffs out there tell us there’s a cabal of Jewish bankers, or Muslim terrorists, or some other kind of boogeyman ready to control us and turn us into zombie robot slaves that bow down to the altar of some Jewish-Muslim boogeyman hybrid, thanks to Kilgore Trout and the dreams of Kurt Vonnegut, we know better.
And what we know is that there is only one kind of enemy boogeyman: Ourselves. We are our own boogeyman. When we live in fear, we die in fear – and we also spread that fear to all the world for everyone to see and feel.
Kilgore Trout told us that it’s silly to think anyone can control our lives. The only one who can control our lives is ourselves.
Kurt Vonnegut, looking down on us from Heaven, would tell us to choose peace and deny the forces of hatred. He once said, “True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.”
Vonnegut saw firsthand what the ravages of war and hate look like. His alter ego Kilgore Trout would concur.
And so it goes.
Let’s make a Quantum Revolution and create an enlightened world of peace.
Have you read Michael Wayne’s new book “The Quantum Revolution: The Power to Transform?” If you haven’t, you owe it to yourself to do so, as it’s a book that promises to help ignite the movement that is sweeping our society and world, a movement that can usher in a more holistic, sustainable and enlightened world. Go to this link to get your copy now!: The Quantum Revolution: The Power to Transform