Kurt Vonnegut on Paul Krassner and his poster – Fuck Socialism

by Kurt Vonnegut
Paul Krassner, 63 at this writing (1996), old enough to be my baby brother,
in 1963 created a miracle of compressed intelligence nearly as admirable for
potent simplicity, in my opinion, as Einstein¹s e=mc2.  With the Vietnam War
going on, and with its critics discounted and scorned by the government and
the mass media, Krassner put on sale a red, white and blue poster that said

At the beginning of the 1960s, FUCK was believed to be so full of bad magic
as to be unprintable.  In the most humanely influential American novel of
this half century, “The Catcher in the Rye,” Holden Caulfield, it will be
remembered, was shocked to see that word on a subway-station wall.  He
wondered what seeing it might do to the mind of a little kid.  COMMUNISM was
to millions the name of the most loathsome evil imaginable.  To call an
American a communist was like calling somebody a Jew in Nazi Germany.  By
having FUCK and COMMUNISM fight it out in a single sentence, Krassner wasn¹t
merely being funny as heck.  He was demonstrating how preposterous it was
for so many people to be responding to both words with such cockamamie
Pavlovian fear and alarm.

What hasn¹t been said about that poster, and surely not by Krassner, is that
its author was behaving harmoniously with most of the Ten Commandments, the
Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the United States and the Sermon on
the Mount.  So, too, were his now-dead friends Lenny Bruce and Abbie Hoffman
and Jerry Rubin, roundly denounced and even arrested for bad manners and
impudence, and now mourned and celebrated as heroes, which indeed they were,
in this important book.  They were prophets, too, at the service of humanity
in jeering, like the prophets of old, at mean-spirited hypocrisies and
stupidities and worse that were making their society a hell, whether there
was a God or not.

And this book is emphatically not nostalgic, but raffishly responsive to the
here and now.  Nor are decades like chains of knockwursts, sutured off from
one another at either end.  To think of them as such, the 1950s, the 1960s,
the 1970s and so on, is merely a mnemonic device.  The only 1960s people are
those who died back then.  Everyone alive today has no choice but to be,
like Paul Krassner, a 1990s person.  Krassner does a good job of that.  So
should we all.

I told Krassner one time that his writings made me hopeful.  He found this
an odd compliment to offer a satirist.  I explained that he made supposedly
serious matters seem ridiculous, and that this inspired many of his readers
to decide for themselves what was ridiculous and what was not.  Knowing that
there were people doing that, better late than never, made me optimistic.


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