The chief weapon of sea pirates, however, was their capacity to astonish. Nobody else could believe, until it was too late, how heartless and greedy they were.

The worst thing that could possibly happen to anybody would be to not be used for anything by anybody. Thank you for using me, even though I didn’t want to be used by anybody.

vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut (1922 – 2007)

Congressman Nixon had asked me why, as the son of immigrants who had been treated so well by Americans, as a man who had been treated like a son and been sent to Harvard by an American capitalist, I had been so ungrateful to the American economic system.

The answer I gave him was not original. Nothing about me has ever been original. I repeated what my one-time hero, Kenneth Whistler, had said in reply to the same general sort of question long, long ago. Whistler had been a witness at a trial of strikers accused of violence. The judge had become curious about him, had asked him why such a well-educated man from such a good family would so immerse himself in the working class.

My stolen answer to Nixon was this: “Why? The Sermon on the Mount, sir.”

The most important message of a crucifix, to me anyway, was how unspeakably cruel supposedly sane human beings can be when under orders from a superior authority.

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