A few weeks ago in this space I announced my intention to read ten "banned" books during the next year. My list included five books that I have previously read and wanted to read again, and five that will be new to me. This week I began working my way through that list by cracking the cover on the 1961 classic, Catch-22, by Joseph Heller. (Hard to believe that it is over half-a-century old!)
I read Catch-22 thirty or so years ago and remember that it is a difficult book to plow through. In fact, back in the day I started it twice and stopped before finally getting through the entire work. Heller's masterpiece featured so many characters with so many absurd plots intersecting and diverging throughout the book, that one almost has to keep notes on who's who and what's what. However, Catch-22 is an amazing work - one that eventually proves to be well worth the time and effort involved in digesting it.
Many of the chapters of the book outline specific characters. The first chapter is entitled "The Texan" and tells of a young serviceman who is admitted to the field hospital on the Italian island of Pianosa, the setting for the novel. Many of the other individuals already in the hospital, including Captain Yossarian, the book's main character, are malingering - claiming illness while studiously trying to avoid going back into combat. The Texan proves to be a boor who never shuts up - and soon his presence drives the others out of the safety of the hospital - and possibly kills one patient who is completely bound up in a cast and has no choice but to listen to the Texan drone on and on.
One of the things that the Texan talks about incessantly is his belief that the rich should be entitled to more votes than the poor. As I read that I realized that I had recently seen that same notion promoted by some rich goober who was out defending the superiority of the one percent. A quick "google" search revealed that individual to be a billionaire (of course) by the name of Tom Perkins who was promoting his less-than-original plan last February. In the Perkins' plan people would receive votes based on the amount of taxes they paid. (Actually, some of America's richest might not like being accorded votes based on taxes paid - since they work so hard at hiding income and buying congressmen to write tax breaks which favor their own interests.) Perkins said that he also favors going back to the colonial notion of only letting property owners vote because they are the only ones with "skin in the game." (Renters, presumably, are permanent members of Mitt Romney's 47% moocher class.)
Another shake of "the google" revealed that the late Texas oilman (Why is it always Texas?) H.L. Hunt promoted his version of the same general idea back in 1960 in his novel entitled Alpaca. Hunt, a conservative cretin who hated President Kennedy in much the same way as many billionaires hate President Obama today, used the book to promote a plan of "graduated suffrage" in which votes were apportioned by income and age. Hunt's plan called for every citizen aged eighteen and over getting to vote. Voters begin 22 and 65 would be allotted two votes each - and the young and elderly would get one. Citizens could earn "premium votes" based on how much they paid in taxes.
(Would these plans to allow extra votes based on how much tax a person pays inspire the rich to quit hiding their money and pay their fair share? Somehow I doubt it.)
So Catch-22 has sent me off on a tangent. Expect another when I get to the part about Milo Minderbinder, the consummate war-profiteer, and decide to vent my spleen comparing him to Dick Cheney!
There is a reason why this book gets banned so often!