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More than 130,000 Americans dead from a global pandemic.

So it goes.

A cretinous, incorrigible jagaloon slinging excrement from the Offal Office.

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So it goes.

A nation once straining toward greatness, now on the verge of collapse (due to its own greed and shortsightedness).

So it goes.

A species — ours — pushing its own habitat to the edge of ecological and environmental disaster.

So it’s going.

Kurt Vonnegut has been dead for 13 years, but he’s not done with us yet. I’m not real sure he ever will be. And I keep thinking back to a first chapter exchange in Slaughterhouse Five.

A character based on Vonnegut tells a filmmaker that the book he has written is an antiwar novel, and the filmmaker mocks him. “Why don’t you write an anti-glacier book instead?” the filmmaker says.

The implication, of course, is that wars are as inevitable as glaciers. Which seemed clever in 1969, the year Slaughterhouse Five was released. Maybe even edgy. Glaciers were still a constant in 1969.

But things have changed.

Today, wars go on endlessly, and glaciers disappear. Today, the oceans warm, acidify, and rise, and the American military-industrial complex sinks to all new lows. And the United States, once looked upon as a beacon of light, is increasingly viewed as a harbinger of darkness.

The American response to the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t given anyone who’s been paying attention much hope that things are going to get better, but they have to. We must make sure of it for ours and our neighbors’ sakes, for our species’ sake, and all the other species’ sakes. Self-destruction is not Holy Writ. We’re on the precipice of what comes next — the last next, if we’re not careful. And there’s the rub.

When so many things can no longer go on, the irony of Vonnegut’s “So it goes” is as biting and incisive as ever and as deadly as, dare I say, war. Because it’s become a war for those who embrace consciousness. A war for sustainability and survival.

For the latter half of the last century, Vonnegut’s “So it goes” was a taunt to consider and weigh for anybody with a conscience. Today, it’s a dire challenge that demands rebuke from everyone who remains sentient. “So it goes” is no longer an acceptable quip. Things can no longer go on as they have. The old rules and the old rulers must be cast aside.

The horrors Vonnegut witnessed during the firebombing of Dresden are tame compared to what the future may hold for us. We’re on a path toward extinction, not distinction. — E.R. Bills

 

Fort Worth native E.R. Bills is the author of eight books, including The San Marcos 10: An Antiwar Protest in Texas (History Press, 2019).

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