Kind Words Change the Direction of a Man’s Life

By Christopher Murphy

I was a senior at Georgetown University, enrolled in ROTC (following my older, career-Army-officer brother into the Air Defense Artillery) and reading as many Kurt Vonnegut books as I could find – one right after the other. I absolutely loved Vonnegut’s books, in particular, Slaughterhouse-Five, from the Tralfamadorian and Billy Pilgrim points of view. I guess I felt a lot like Billy Pilgrim, only stuck in my time.

I realized that I could not possibly serve as a leader in a war I believed was a moral atrocity, and I couldn’t figure out how to end war. I became very depressed. Kent State had just happened in May 1970, so I wrote to Mr. Vonnegut and told him I was going to start “not reading his books anymore.” 

He wrote me back! He said “I’m sorry I depressed you. It really isn’t as bad a picture as my books paint. Continue to resist the draft.”

So I got out of ROTC and filed for conscientious objector-status through my local draft board in NYC. I didn’t get it, but the appeals process went into its third year, and the Selective Service Act expired in ’72, an election year.

The Selective Service offered us unresolved first lottery folks a deal. The Quakers advised me to take it, and I moved to Venice Beach, CA. in September ’72,  then up here in Sonoma County, CA. where in 1980, I became an actor/set builder, something I still am active in.

 Y’all should know Kurt Vonnegut did this for me.  It really, really made a BIG difference in my whole life.

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