America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but its people are mainly poor, and poor Americans are urged to hate themselves. To quote the American humorist Kin Hubbard,
‘It ain’t no disgrace to be poor, but might as well be.’ It is in fact a crime for an American to be poor, even though America is a nation of poor. Every other nation has folk
traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power and gold. No such tales are told by the American
poor. They mock themselves and glorify their betters. The meanest eating or drinking establishment, owned by a man who is himself poor, is very likely to have a sign on its
wall asking this cruel question: ‘If you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich? ‘ There will also be an American flag no larger than a child’s hand-glued to a lollipop stick and, flying
from the cash register.
The author of the monograph, a native of Schenectady, New York, was said by some to have had the highest I.Q. of all the war criminals who were made to face a death by
hanging. So it goes.
Americans, like human beings everywhere, believe many things that are obviously untrue, the monograph went on. Their most destructive untruth is that it is very easy for
any American to make money. They will not acknowledge how in fact hard money is to come by, and, therefore, those who have no money blame and blame and blame
themselves. This inward blame has been a treasure for the rich and powerful, who have had to do less for their poor, publicly and privately, than any other ruling class since,
say, Napoleonic times.
Many novelties have come from America. The most startling of these, a thing without precedent, is a mass of undignified poor. They do not love one another because they do
not love themselves. Once this is understood the disagreeable behavior of American enlisted men in German prisons ceases to be a mystery.
Howard W. Cambell, Jr., now discussed the uniform of the American enlisted in the Second World War: Every other army in history, prosperous or not, has attempted to
clothe even its lowliest soldiers so as to make them impressive to themselves and others as stylish experts in drinking and copulation and looting and sudden death. The
American Army, however, sends its enlisted men out to fight and die in a modified business suit quite evidently made for another man, a sterilized but unpressed gift from a
nose-holding charity which passes out clothing to drunks in the slums.
When a dashingly-clad officer addresses such a frumpishly dressed bum, he scolds him, as an officer in an army must. But the officer’s contempt is not, as in other armies,
avuncular theatricality. It is a genuine expression of hatred for the poor, who have no one to blame for their misery but themselves.
A prison administrator dealing with captured American enlisted men for the first time should be warned: Expect no brotherly love, even between brothers. There will be no
cohesion between the individuals. Each will be a sulky child who often wishes he were dead.
Campbell told what the German experience with captured American enlisted men had been. They were known everywhere to be the most self-pitying, least fraternal and dirtiest of all prisoners of war, said Campbell. They were incapable of concerted action on their own behalf. They despised any leader from among their own number, refused to follow or even listen to him, on the grounds that he was no better than they were, that he should stop putting on airs.
And so on.
Spoken by Howard W. Cambell, Jr., from Slaughterhouse 5, by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Dedicated to Phalluster and Firepower.