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Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (1922–2007) was an American novelist who wrote works blending satire, black comedy, and science fiction, such as Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), Cat's Cradle (1963), and Breakfast of Champions (1973). He was known for his humanist beliefs as well as being honorary president of the American Humanist Association.
Vonnegut was deeply influenced by early Socialist labor leaders, especially Indiana natives Powers Hapgood and Eugene V. Debs, and he frequently quotes them in his work. He was a lifetime member of the American Civil Liberties Union and was featured in a print advertisement for them.
Vonnegut frequently addressed moral and political issues but rarely dealt with specific political figures until after his retirement from fiction. With his columns for In These Times, he began a blistering attack on the Bush administration and the Iraq war. "By saying that our leaders are power-drunk chimpanzees, am I in danger of wrecking the morale of our soldiers fighting and dying in the Middle East?" he wrote. "Their morale, like so many bodies, is already shot to pieces. They are being treated, as I never was, like toys a rich kid got for Christmas."
Though he was a dissident to the end, Vonnegut held a bleak view on the power of artists to effect change. "During the Vietnam War," he told an interviewer in 2003, "every respectable artist in this country was against the war. It was like a laser beam. We were all aimed in the same direction. The power of this weapon turns out to be that of a custard pie dropped from a stepladder six feet high."