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August 11, 2011 - Jim Anderson
Under federal law, the minimum age for enlistment in the United States military is 17 (with parental consent) and 18 (without parental consent).
In the Republic School District in Missouri, the school board voted recently to remove Kurt Vonnegut’s World War II novel “Slaughterhouse-Five” from an upper-level English course. After reviewing a citizen complaint, the board decided the book was inappropriate for high school study.
The novel wavers between science-fiction fantasy, comedy, and grim depictions of war. Objections were raised because it includes swearing, nudity and irreverent biblical allusions.
Board President Ken Knierim said the board decided the novel wasn’t “age-appropriate” and sent “the wrong message.” It’s unclear, from press reports, whether Knierim has read the novel, or just passages.
“Slaughterhouse Five” is centered around the Allied bombing of Dresden, Germany, in 1945 and the resulting firestorm that destroyed 15 square miles of the city. Vonnegut was there, as a prisoner of war, and survived in the bowels of a slaughterhouse.
Debate continues even today about the number of civilian casualties (a maximum of 25,000 according to a recent study commissioned by the city; the Nazi regime claimed 200,000) and whether the bombing was justified.
In the first chapter, Vonnegut compares himself to Lot’s wife, who, in the Bible, is turned into a pillar of salt for looking back to see the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomarrah. His book, he declares, “is a failure, and had to be, since it was written by a pillar of salt.”
Last fall, in Santa Barbara, Calif., a local chapter of Veterans For Peace set up a teen cemetery on a city college campus. The symbolic event consisted of tombstones of 359 U.S. military teens killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Had any of them read “Slaughterhouse Five”?
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