I was never that big a fan of Vonnegut back in the day, when so many of my friends were into him. I disliked anything that smacked of nihilism, and Cat’s Cradle in particular seemed to preach the message, "Why try? Everything is pointless." There is something in me that rebels fiercely against that. I remember writing an essay in high school comparing it unfavorably to Catch-22. Yossarian seemed trapped in malignant absurdity, too, but at the end (warning! plot spoiler coming!), there is a life-affirming burst of hope when he learns that Orr had paddled all the way to Sweden, whereas at the end of Cat’s Cradle, the protagonist is contemplating tasting ice-nine.
Maybe I would feel better about it if I read him now; I don’t know. Maybe I could accept fatalism more favorably coming from a soldier of the ill-fated 106th Infantry Division (which may not qualify as a granfalloon, since so many of its members, such as my own father-in-law, indeed shared a similar fate, which might make it a true karass). But having granfalloon pop into my head while typing that earlier response at least causes me to have greater respect for him for having invented that term.
It’s an important word to have, because it explains why the politics of identity leave me cold. I simply don’t ever feel the impulse to identify with, or stick up for, a person who simply has the same color skin that I do, or is the same gender, or believes in the same religion (even though Catholicism for me is a choice, rather than an accident of birth). Assuming a kinship with someone over such things seems every bit as absurd as the shared association of being Hoosiers, to cite one of Vonnegut’s examples.
Sometimes in the past, I’ve tried to express the thing I object to in terms of "teams." I apply this in particular to the political parties — another form of voluntary association (even though, once people have joined them, they seem to act as though they were born into them and are congenitally incapable of contradicting the party line). Since I don’t see either Democrats or Republicans as embracing coherent, rational philosophies, but being coagulations of people with unconnected goals who have decided to band together, I think of them as having formed teams for purely pragmatic reasons — safety in numbers, pooling resources for organizational purposes, etc.
And teams are not a thing I’m into. The importance that some people attach to identification with, say, the Gamecocks seems to me suggestive of something far uglier. I know that’s ridiculous; it’s generally innocent, but such massive demonstrations of pointless solidarity put me off.
Anyway, now that I’ve retrieved it from my memory banks, I should use "granfalloon" more often.