Kurt Vonnegut, College Commencement Speech, 1999 (Antidote against Hammurabi)

I myself have an axe which I have ground as sharp as a razor. What would I like to do with it if I could? I would like to plant it in the forehead of the Babylonian king Hammurabi… Hammurabi gave us a code which is honored to this very day by many nations… and by all heroes and cowboy and gangster films and by far too many people who feel that they have been insulted or injured, however slightly, however accidentally: “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” Revenge is not only sweet; revenge is a must. What antidote can there be for an idea that’s popular and poisonous? Revenge provokes revenge which is sure to provoke revenge, forming an endless chain of human misery. Here’s the antidote: Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Amen.

Now some of you may know that I’m a Humanist, not a Christian, but I say of Jesus as all Humanists do if what he said was good, and so much of it was absolutely beautiful, what can it matter if he was God or not? If Christ hadn’t delivered the Sermon on the Mount, with its message of mercy and pity, I wouldn’t want to be a human being, I’d rather be a rattlesnake.

Full Speech: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m9Toxp0OJNc


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