Monday, January 20, 2014

Readings: from God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

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The following is an excerpt from a letter, written by Eliot Rosewater, President, Rosewater Foundation, and meant for his successor in that privileged position. The letter was triple-sealed and locked in a safe. Eliot is the novel's protagonist, and the Rosewater named in the title:

     "When the United State of America, which was meant to be a Utopia for all, was less than a century old, Noah Rosewater and a few men like him demonstrated the folly of the Founding Fathers in one respect: those sadly recent ancestors had not made it the law of the Utopia that the wealth of each citizen should be limited. This oversight was engendered by a weak-kneed sympathy for those who love expensive things, and by the feeling that the continent was so vast and valuable, and the population so thin and enterprising, that no thief, no matter how fast he stole, could more than mildly inconvenience anyone.
     "Noah and a few like perceived that the continent was in fact finite, and that venal office-holders, legislators in particular, could be persuaded to toss up great hunks of it for grabs, and to toss them in such a way as to have them land where Noah and his kind were standing.
     Thus did a handful of rapacious citizens come to control all that was worth controlling in America.  Thus was the savage and stupid and entirely inappropriate and unnecessary and humorless American class system created. Honest, industrious, peaceful citizens were classed as bloodsuckers, if they asked to be paid a living wage. And they saw that praise was reserved henceforth for those who devised means of getting paid enormously for committing crimes against which no laws had been passed. Thus the American dream turned belly up, turned green, bobbed to the scummy surface of cupidity unlimited, filled with gas, and bang in the noonday sun.
     "E pluribus unum is surely an ironic motto to inscribe on the currency of this Utopia gone bust, for every grotesquely rich American represents property, privileges, and pleasures that have been denied the many. An even more instructive motto, in the light of history made by the Noah Rosewaters, might be: Grab much too much, or you'll get nothing at all."

So we see, dear readers, that Kurt Vonnegut understood America, and that he was warning us, decades ago, about what many of us are only now coming to realize as our sordid fate. 
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