October 18, 2017
"So It Goes"On the evening of this day in 1945, British and U.S. air forces began the 48-hour bombing of Dresden, Germany. Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five is the most famous fictional record of what resulted -- a firestorm that destroyed 85% of the "Florence by the Elbe" and killed upwards of 135,000 people, most of them civilians and POWs. Vonnegut and fellow-POWs hid in an underground cold storage room of the slaughterhouse where they were quartered. Their old job had been to make a vitamin supplement for pregnant women; their new one was to dig up whatever corpses they could find, from shelters that "looked like a streetcar full of people who'd simultaneously had heart failure. Just people sitting in chairs, all dead."
Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children's Crusade was published in 1969, Vonnegut saying that it took him twenty-five years to be able to face or articulate his experience. It came out to Woodstock and the My Lai massacre, and it became an instant popular classic, many looking to Billy Pilgrim or Vonnegut for some perspective on the times:
Martin Luther King was shot a month ago. He died, too. So it goes.
And every day my Government gives me a count of corpses created by military science in Vietnam. So it goes.
My father died many years ago now -- of natural causes. So it goes. He was a sweet man. He was a gun nut, too. He left me his guns. They rust.
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