Kurt Vonnegut and the Women’s March

After reading The Sirens of Titan again, it finally became clear to me what the meaning of 2016’s madness was.   Vonnegut’s masterpiece is brilliant in so many ways, but what got to me was the part about the invasion of Earth by an army from Mars.   The reasons for this attack are complicated, but the main thing is that our entire planet rallies to the defense: implacable enemies like the Soviet Union, China, the US and all the Western World come together in the face of this interplanetary menace and they utterly annihilate the Martians.   The world becomes one and a new dawn of cooperation breaks for our ailing planet.

This is what 2016 has begun to do.   We haven’t been attacked by Mars, but the new crop of leaders in Washington may as well be a pod of aliens as far as the feminists of the world are concerned. Now the Women’s March has galvanized an intercontinental movement that began with the outrage of finding that an unrepentant, predatory satyr could boast his way into the White House.   The women (and men) who were at these marches are as determined as Vonnegut’s defenders to wipe that smirk off the face of the current commander-in-chief, the Ober-gropen-führer*, as one sign at the March succinctly put it. But lest we forget:

42% of American women overall voted for Trump

53% of white women

62% of white women without college degrees

These women weren’t at the March. In a New York Times interview in a small town in Michigan, some women didn’t even know the march was taking place, and when they were told about it, dismissed it as a bunch of pro-choicers. One woman said she didn’t think her husband would approve of her going to the March.

So there you go. We certainly haven’t reached the point of Vonnegut’s unifying alliance because it seems that many women either don’t care about sexual predation, or shrug it off as normal and what can you do about it anyway, or they buy into the old male-dominated way of life that seems to suit them just fine. Or maybe they just hated Hilary Clinton too much (20% of voters said they disliked Trump but voted for him anyway). Put another way, these women are less worried about sexual harassment and more about the deterioration of the country they thought they knew: the drug problems, the factories closing, the loss of small-town American values at the hands of ….of who? I would say, of guys like Trump. But they see him as a businessman who knows how to get things done.

So, sisters, you’ve got your work cut out for you.  You’ve got some people to convince–not the leadership currently moving in down in DC–save your breath with those guys–but those ladies in communities all across America who don’t yet see eye-to-eye with you on the issues you care about most.  Until you can persuade them that we have to unite to stop sexual harassment, you can march all you want, and write letters to Congress, but all you’ll get is another four years of This, whatever This is.

For more on the March :  The Womens March: God vs. the Goddess

*It’s terrible to have to explain your allusions, but I’ll do it anyway.   In The Man in the High Castle, the excellent series on Amazon starring Rufus Sewell, the premise is that the Nazis won WWII and the USA is ruled by an American offshoot of the SS. One of the top brass is Obergruppenführer Smith, played by Sewell. It means chief-group-leader in German, and was a rank second only to the head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler.

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Dementia and the Right to Die

If anything is writ upon the Wall of Fate, it is that the right to die will eventually become as much a part of the culture as the right to choose who to marry. Think of where we were 300 years ago: marriages were arranged by parents, women were viewed as the intellectual inferiors of men, minorities were denied basic human rights, homosexuality was utterly taboo. Today, although there is undeniably work to be done to achieve equality in each of these areas, we are well on our way to a world where each of these groups of people are accorded a status equal to the once all-powerful white male, at least in the Western World.

The right to end a pregnancy was won several decades ago, and, while not on as solid a footing as the other advances mentioned, it would be difficult to turn back the clock on that issue. Now the turn has come for the right to die.

Currently five states allow terminally-ill citizens to choose a painless, immediate death rather than wait for nature to take its course with all the agonies, both mental and physical, that accompany a lingering death. More states will surely follow in the near future as poll numbers show : 70% now support euthanasia for the terminally ill.

The next step after that will be to ensure that the right to die includes those suffering from dementia.   A moving and convincing manifesto by Canadian Gillian Bennett, “Dead at Noon,” says it all and should be required reading for all politicians and citizens weighing in on this subject. Bennett realized the road ahead for her was not a pretty one as she became more and more forgetful. “All I lose is an indefinite number of years of being a vegetable in a hospital setting, eating up the country’s money but having not the faintest idea of who I am.”   Prevented by law from seeking a doctor’s help in ending her life, she took action herself with a handful of barbiturates in 2014.

Kurt Vonnegut once wrote about “Ethical Suicide Parolors” in one of his futuristic short stories, “Welcome to the Monkey House,”  a comfortable setting with support from professionals and family on the day of the last chapter of our lives.  That’s what we need now, so that anyone who can sense the approach of a debilitating dementia can opt for a death with dignity.

Of course there are potential problems, but the good that would result far outweighs any of them.   And if you believe that God doesn’t want us to take our own life, the question then becomes, how do you know that? and would God rather have us live for months and years without even knowing our own names, knowing nothing but how to chew food?