Kilgore Trout’s Bizarro-America
Kilgore Trout is a fictional character created by one of America’s great writers, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. He was also a writer, and Vonnegut often used a summary of a Trout story to make his point. He said Trout’s themes centered around a tragic failure to communicate. For example, in one of Trout’s stories, “This Means You”, all the land in Hawaii was owned by a few rich people, so there was nowhere for the rest of the people even stand, without trespassing. The government’s solution was to issue them all hot-air balloons.
Both Vonnegut and Trout wrote about an America where common sense has been replaced by madness. I call it Bizarro-America, with a nod to the Bizarro-World episodes in the old Superman comics, where everything was the opposite of what it should be. My first clue that we might be living in this parallel universe was in the 1980s, when President Reagan appointed James Watt as Secretary of the Interior. Watt was a Pentacostal dominionist, an end-timer. He said there was no need to protect the environment – – Jesus is coming, any day now. He was also in the pocket of big Oil, and epitomized the old saying about the fox guarding the hen-house.
How would it work? In Bizarro-America, banks would rob the people. Wall Street hedge fund managers would steal billions of dollars from the public, and plunder pension funds. But instead of being put in jail, they would receive obscene bonuses for their criminality. Corporations would be considered people, and money the same as free speech. Millions would call the streets home, while millions of homes would stand empty. In the political arena, those least qualified to hold any public office whatsoever, would be the front-runners for the highest office in the land, that of the Presidency. In the U.S. Senate, 41 out of 100 votes would be considered a majority. Getting the idea?
Eternal wars would be fought in order to maintain the peace. Oh, wait. That’s George Orwell’s America.
Bizarro-America would be universally hailed as the beacon of freedom, and yet have the world’s largest prison population. This nation of freedom and liberty would be the most brutally imperialistic, attacking countries who were no threat to them, murdering their citizens, and plundering their resources. This same nation would spend billions annually in foreign aid, while letting millions of its own citizens starve, or die from lack of health care.
In Bizarro-America, Christians – – who take their name from a great man who taught love, peace and forgiveness – – would be the meanest, nastiest bastards you’d never want to meet. A President and high-ranking officials of the government would commit treason and crimes against humanity. Instead of being brought to justice and imprisoned for their atrocities, they would be regular guests on cable TV news shows, promoting their memoirs. Those least qualified to hold any kind of political office would actually be the front-runners for the highest office in the land, that of President of the United States. Have you checked out the 85 or so new members of the U.S. House? In any rational society these people wouldn’t be in public office, they’d be chained to the walls of a rubber room.
Sadly, Vonnegut is no longer with us, but Trout, being a fictional character, will live forever. I can imagine him now, writing a story about a country in which all the citizens are insane. They keep voting for the same politicians who have been stealing their money and giving it to the rich. Next election, they vote for them yet again! In fact, as I was writing this, something happened in the news that is quintessentially Troutian. Topeka, Kansas, the state capital, is in a budget crisis, as are most cities and states today. They can no longer afford to prosecute all the felonies taking place there, especially domestic violence. So, in their infinite madness, the Mayor and City Council, on Oct. 11th, repealed the statute that makes domestic violence a felony. Now it’s a misdemeanor, unless it involves a gun or some other weapon. Eighteen men in jail have just been released without charges. Ironically, October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
This is Kilgore Trout’s Bizarro-America, a nightmare grotesquerie of everything we say we believe in and have fought for. Talk about moral relativism. So what do you do if you find yourself stuck in Bizarro-America, with no means of escape? Do you act like everyone else, so as to fit in? Or do you stand by your principles and risk being marginalized by the majority, who might consider you a threat to social stability? History and literature are replete with tragic stories of people who spoke truth to power – – R.P. McMurphy in ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST, Sir Thomas More, Keith Olbermann, and PFC Bradley Manning, to name just a few of the many. If you’re not careful, you could end up nailed to a cross.