The Hundred Martyrs to Democracy

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I finished Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut the other day. I unfortunately haven’t had a chance to write about it yet, but I thought I’d pop on to share this quote. This particular bit feels like a precursor for Slaughterhouse 5, which was written six years after. This comes from an American ambassador giving a speech to the fictional Caribbean nation San Lorenzo, memorializing the hundred soldiers they lost during the war. They became known as The Hundred Martyrs to Democracy (lo Hoon-yera Mora-toorz tut Zamoo-cratz-ya in the native tongue).

“We are gathered here, friends,” he said, “to honor lo Hoon-yera Mora-toorz tut Zamoo-cratz-ya, children dead, all dead, all murdered in war. It is customary on days like this to call such lost children men. I am unable to call them men for this simple reason: that in the same war in which lo Hoon-yera Mora-toorz tut Zamoo-cratz-ya died, my own son died.

“My soul insists that I mourn not a man but a child.

“I do not say that children at war do not die like men, if they have to die. To their everlasting honor and our everlasting shame they do die like men, thus making possible the manly jubilation of patriotic holidays.

“But they are murdered children all the same.

“And I propose to you that if we are to pay our sincere respects to the hundred lost children of San Lorenzo, that we might best spend the day despising what killed them; which is to say, the stupidity and viciousness of all mankind.

“Perhaps, when we remember wars, we should take off our clothes and paint ourselves blue and go on all fours all day long and grunt like pigs. That would surely be more appropriate than noble oratory and shows of flags and well-oiled guns.

“I do not mean to be ungrateful for the fine, martial show we are about to see–and a thrilling show it really will be . . .”

He looked each of us in the eye, and then he commented very softly, throwing it away, “And hooray say I for thrilling shows.”

We had to strain our ears to hear what Minton said next.

“But if today is really in honor of a hundred children murdered in war,” he said, “is today a day for a thrilling show?

“The answer is yes, on one condition: that we, the celebrants, are working consciously and tirelessly to reduce the stupidity and viciousness of ourselves and of all mankind.”

— Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle

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