Thanks, George

1937-2008

I’m going to miss George Carlin. Not as though I knew the man; I never even saw him live. A good friend introduced me to him fairly late in his career, which for me opened up an archive of commentary that had permeated my adult life, most of which I’d consider to be his best and most poignant material–pretty much from “What Am I Doing in New Jersey?” onward.

I was more disappointed in the media’s reporting of his passing and career, particularly as it came on the heels of Tim Russert’s death a week prior. Everything I read or saw on Tim Russert was a flower piece, highlighting his dedication and achievements as a journalist and his prominent role in past elections, as though being a wizard with a dry erase board in the 21st century is some sort of unrivaled, technical feat.

Meanwhile, every news piece on Carlin highlighted his controversial career in comedy, particularly the topics of censorship, religion, and politics, while giving a paragraph’s nod to his past drug and heart problems (the latter being the cause of death for both men). That’d be relevant, except that Carlin lived to age 71, Russert to 58, and I didn’t catch a single sentence on Russert’s diet or excercise regimen.

Russert was very adept at shaping every dialogue into the fashionable pro/con, black & white dichotomy that’s become standard today, which is vastly easier and more audience captivating than actually investigating why only one in one-hundred scientists deny global climate change or its probable cause in human activity/industrialism, for example. But he was proficient in counting to 270, which would rank him near the top of any 5th-grade classroom in America, and he was apparently loved by everyone who knew him. Of course, great journalists aren’t loved by many people; they’ve pissed off too many of them by doing their job: telling the story that the people involved don’t want you to tell, to people who might not be ready to hear the truth. A beloved journalist is a lousy journalist. Period.

Carlin asked the questions that highlighted inconsistency, especially ones relating to religion, language, and logic. The sort of queries that beg for, but don’t recieve, a good or reasonable explanation, like why most Christians who are pro-life also support capital punishment, as though “Thou shalt not kill” has negotiable properties of meaning. But in his comedic commentary, nothing was taboo (as his role in the Supreme Court’s 1978 decision in F.C.C. vs. Pacifica Foundation will attest), and oftentimes, only in crossing that perceived line of decency could a meaningful understanding begin: “There’s nothing wrong with the word, ‘nigger,’ in and of itself; it’s the racist asshole who’s using it that you ought to be concerned about!”

I’ll miss George Carlin, the comedian, but what I’ll miss most is George Carlin, the most prominent, vocal, and reasoned critic and voice of dissent America may have ever had.

“I don’t like words that hide the truth.”

~George Carlin ( May 12, 1937 – June 22, 2008 )

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