Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I Can’t Believe George Carlin is F*ck*ng Dead

George Carlin did not pass away, expire, kick the bucket, nor did he leave this world for a better place

Plain and simple, folks: George Carlin is f*ck*ng dead, and no euphemism is going to change or conceal that fact.

Carlin reportedly died of “heart failure” Sunday night and had he lived long enough to read his own obituary, he probably would have had a heart attack.

"Why? Because words matter and people might assume that doctors were substituting "failure" for "attack," that they were concealing the truth and implying that Carlin's heart somehow let him down as opposed to the other way around. As he looks down upon us now, I’m convinced Carlin would say that it was only a matter of time before his heart would kill his ass for all the terrible sh*t he did to his body when he was still alive.

Carlin, undoubtedly one of the most influential stand-up comedians and satirists in American history, earned his notoriety by using words in his routines deemed vulgar or obscene. But Carlin argues there is no such thing as an obscene word, in and of itself; rather it’s the context of how and when the words are used that ultimately determine whether it is obscene or not.

Carlin addressed this notion in one of his famous comedy bits, which unleashed a verbal assault on the powers that be, who have hijacked the language to feed their own agenda and conceal America’s sins by masking the truth with words.

George Carlin on Language

Americans have always been afraid of the truth and Carlin reminds us that no matter how hard we want to sugarcoat the past, we cannot use words to hide our crimes. Nonetheless, our government, in cahoots with the media, has used euphemisms and double-speak to manipulate our language as a means of hiding unspeakable truths while simultaneously justifying and condoning its own atrocious behaviors.

Now some of you may be thinking to yourselves: “What’s this unpatriotic bastard talking about?”

(Speaking of context, all Americans are bastards -- given the fact our country is the bastard child of Mother England. And considering the American Revolution was an unpatriotic act of patriotism, aren’t we all descendants of unpatriotic bastards?)

Well, for starters, we have yet to completely face the hard truths about our role in committing systematic genocide against Native Americans, the enslavement of Africans and the World War II bombings of innocent people in Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Dresden.

The list of obscenities goes on, but ironically, it was an abridged list of obscenities, “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television,” that landed Carlin in jail in a 1972 performance at the Milwaukee Summerfest. In the spirit of Lenny Bruce, Carlin was charged with violating obscenity laws. The case was dismissed five months later when the presiding judge declared that the language was indecent, but Carlin had the right to exercise his free speech, not to mention, the routine did not create any disturbance -- other than Carlin’s arrest.

The Seven Words You Cannot Say on Television:

However, a version of the original bit came under fire the following year during a radio broadcast of Carlin’s routine in New York. The radio station, WBAI, received a citation from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for broadcasting “obscene” material.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the FCC action, by a vote of 5-4, ruling that the routine was "indecent but not obscene," and the FCC had authority to prohibit such broadcasts during hours when children were likely to be among the audience.

In its ruling the Supreme Court split semantical hairs, arguing there is a distinguishable difference between what is obscene and what is indecent, thus setting the precedent for years to come. The ruling transcended words in 2004, when Janet Jackson brandished her nipple during the Super Bowl halftime show. Because her nipple was indecent, and not obscene, Janet Jackson avoided arrest and detainment in Guantanamo Bay.

Ironically, news of Carlin’s death spawned a blitzkrieg of asterisks in the print media (see title), while broadcast interns across the country combed through over 40 years of material to find a clip of “decent” material to air on television.

Carlin picked up where Lenny Bruce’s untimely death left off and the question now is who will carry Carlin’s satiric torch into the future? Who will use humor and hyperbole to unmask and expose the awful truths in our society? Who has the balls to step into Carlin’s shoes and shine America’s dark side back in its face?

Arguably, some satirists, influenced by Carlin’s acid tongue, have already begun doing so. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are dominating the late-night scene with their faux news and critiques of the mainstream media. Meanwhile, Chris Rock, whom Rolling Stone magazine recently dubbed the “Funniest Motherf*cker in America,” is torching the stand-up circuit with his scathing satire of contemporary political and social issues.

Tragically, it appears Americans can only handle the truth in small doses and these doses have to be ensconced in humor and dispensed through biting satire. This appears to be the only way we can digest the truth.

Knowing this, Carlin not only used strong language to make sure that the truth was bitter while going down, but ensured that it burned while coming out the other end as well.

It is the latter that will keep Carlin’s words alive; I sh*t you not.

I, for one, know that I am going to miss that funny motherf*cker, and I will never forget George Carlin. That’s for damn sure.