(Kurt Vonnegut, Jr, American writer and satirist, died 12 April 2007)

Sat beside this old guy on the bus.
Got talking.
He told me about a country that was the richest land
On earth.
Inside it there were lots of other countries.
There was a native country,
And a black country,
And especially there was a country of poor people
And a country of sick people.
The native country had been robbed of its land;
The black country had been robbed of its language and culture.
The poor people's country was kept poor
And the sick people's country was kept sick
Because the rich and healthy people
Were Christians
And thought the poor and the sick were blessed
in their poverty and sickness.
So it goes, the old guy said.

Saw this old guy again yesterday.
Sat beside him again.
He told me a story
About a country that believed
In life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Because of this they took away
The lives of thousands of people in other countries
With bombs and missiles and helicopter gunships,
The liberty of hundreds of people
by shipping them to a special prison
and chaining them up in tiny cells,
and the happiness of millions of people
by trying to give them democracy
and a market economy.
So it goes.

Met the old guy this morning.
Getting pretty tired of his stories.
But he told me another one.
There's this country that gives off
More poisons into the air
Than anywhere else on the earth,
And pays its scientists and politicians
To say that the world is safe in its hands.
So it goes, says the guy.

OK, I says,
What is this country?
The home of the brave
And the land of the free,
Says the old guy,
With all thy faults I love thee still.
It is my fate to tell these stories
And find them turned
Into pornography,
Or, even worse,
Science fiction.
So it goes.

Kilgore Trout is a recurring figure in the fictions of Kurt Vonnegut. He is doomed to be constantly producing brilliant ideas for stories, which are dismissed as material for pornographic books. Kurt Vonnegut, one of America's most brilliant satirical writers, was written off by many critics as a science fiction writer, an insult to both Vonnegut and to science fiction. "So it goes" was a recurring comment in Vonnegut's novel, Slaughterhouse-Five, and "Ting-a-ling" was Kilgore Trout's dismissive reaction to most of what happened in life's crock of shit.


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