Dalton Trumbo and the Decepticons

22 May 2015

I recently managed to read- or maybe reread, I don’t quite remember (was this assigned in high school?)- Dalton Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun. I say “managed” because it is not the easiest book to read. It is disturbing in its own unique way, and it was conceived by a very unique mind. Let me back up and state that I did not study literature, and haven’t read everything I’d like to have read to make literary comparisons. I will say that I love books, and I read a lot of them. In our house we have a room full of them, and cases and stacks of them in many other rooms. Sometimes I feel like books keep me alive. But, on to Dalton Trumbo.

Trumbo was a Colorado native. He went to college here in Boulder, at CU, for two years in the 1920’s. Johnny Got His Gun was written in 1938, and published in 1939. The life of Joe Bonham, the main character, parallels that of Trumbo in the beginning of the novel. Trumbo’s anti-war voice is present throughout, but he is really heard near the end of the novel as Bonham accepts his situation and thinks he finds a way for his “voice” to be heard. That notion is quickly, bureaucratically quashed. That is all I will say about the novel. That, and that it must be read.

Trumbo was shunned and blacklisted for his anti-war sentiments. He stood up against the McCarthyist establishment, did not fold under pressure from “representatives” of our government and threats of prison, and indeed did got to jail for sticking to his ideals, for choosing to uphold the notions of liberty, freedom, and democracy. All the while Trumbo fought against men such as McCarthy and what we now see clearly as his fascist witch hunts.

In an effort to appeal to all ages, to summarise, and to set Trumbo in contemporary culture, think of Trumbo as an Autobot, Optimus Prime even, McCarthy as Megatron, and he and his clones as Decpticons. Prime and his fellow protectors of freedom never back down from the threats advanced by the Decepticons, just as Trumbo and a very few others stood up to the tyrannical threats and actions of the McCarthyist crusade. That they stood to this fight should never be forgotten, especially now, as the Decepticons continue their insidious takeover of our government and our world even as you sit reading this.



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