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"Cat's Cradle" excerpt
by: Kurt Vonnegut

    ‘We are gathered here, friends,’ he said, ‘to honour lo Hoon-year Mora-toorz tut Zamoo-cratz-ya, children dead, all dead, all murdered in war. It is customary on days like this to call such lost children men. I am unable to call them men for this simple reason: that in the same war in which lo Hoon-year Mora-toorz tut Zamoo-cratz-ya died, my own son died.
    ‘My soul insists that I mourn not a man but a child.
    ‘I do not say that children at war do not die like men, if they have to die. To their everlasting honour and our everlasting shame, they do die like men, thus making possible the manly jubilation of patriotic holidays.
    ‘But they are murdered children all the same.
    ‘And I propose to you that if we are to pay our sincere respects to the hundred lost children of San Lorenzo, that we might best spend the day despising what killed them; which is to say, the stupidity and viciousness of all mankind.
    ‘Perhaps, when we remember wars, we should take off our clothes and paint ourselves blue and go on all fours all day long and grunt like pigs. That would surely be more appropriate than noble oratory and shows of flags and well-oiled guns.
    ‘I do not mean to be ungrateful for the fine, martial show we are about to see – and a thrilling show it really will be…’
    He looked each of us in the eye, and then he commented very softly, throwing it away, ‘And hooray I say for thrilling shows.’
    We had to strain our ears to hear what Minton said next.
    ‘But if today is really in honour of a hundred children murdered in war,’ he said, ‘is today a day for a thrilling show?
    ‘The answer is yes, on one condition: that we, the celebrants are working consciously and tirelessly to reduce the stupidity and viciousness of ourselves and all mankind.’
    He opened the case and showed us the scarlet lining and he golden wreath. The wreath was made of wire and artificial laurel leaves, and the whole was sprayed with radiator paint.
    The wreath was spanned by a cream-coloured silk ribbon on which was printed, ‘PRO PATRIA’.
    Minton now recited a poem from Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology, a poem that must have been incomprehensible to the San Lorenzans in the audience – and to H. Lowe Crosby and his Hazel, too, for that matter, and to Angela and Frank.
        I was the first fruits of the battle of Missionary Ridge.
        When I felt the bullet enter my heart
        I wished I had staid at home and gone to jail
        For stealing the hogs of Curl Trenary,
        Instead of running away and joining the army.
        Rather a thousand times the county jail
        Than to lie under this marble fingers with wings
        And this granite pedestal
        Bearing the words, ‘Pro Patria’.
        What do they mean, anyway?

    ‘What do they mean, anyway?’ echoed Ambassador Horlick Minton. ‘They mean, “For one’s country”.’ And he threw away another line. ‘Any country at all’ he murmured.
    ‘This wreath I bring is a gift from the people of one country to the people of another. Never mind which countries. Think of people…
    ‘And children murdered in war…
    ‘And any country at all.
    ‘Think of peace.
    ‘Think of brotherly love.
    ‘Think of plenty.
    ‘Think of what a paradise this world would be if men were kind and wise.

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