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Passing Of A Legend

Jun 23, 2008

This morning brought some truly sad news for me, which I’m sure many of you already know: George Carlin has died. I’m not old enough to know of Carlin’s early work, instead I discovered him in the mid 80’s when he had already established himself as a legendary comic with a fantastically cutting wit.

The discovery of Carlin was a major developing point in my life, one which helped shape my harsh view of the inequities of life as well as my political outlook. I really credit two comedians in forming my view of the world, Carlin being one and Dennis Miller being the other. While Miller was the mold in which I fleshed out my way of thinking, my “inside my brain” voice if you will, Carlin provided a sense of true analytical disgruntlement, a focused laser of making fun of the world while being angry with disappointment at it. The issues of class, race and poverty that Carlin often touched on have become some of the things I feel most vehemently about today.

While Miller has changed his views in many ways, Carlin stayed defiantly concrete in what he felt was the failure of us as a race in general. While I occasionally found his anger a bit too dark even for my liking, in general he merely put on display the things that we all know deep down are true. While we as a people have moments of divine beauty and powerful benevolence, the shadow cast by these acts is no less black at times.

One of the moments that summed up Carlin for me came during his appearance, naturally, on Dennis Miller Live. The topic was the military, and as always Carlin was being his brutally honest self. At one point he suggested to Miller that what the soldiers of the various military outfits of the world should do is simply refuse to report en masse. When Miller proposed that punishment for such an action could include death, Carlin responded with “What are they gonna do, shoot them all?” To me, this encapsulated for me the alternate view that Carlin saw everything through. He had let go the convention of a “necessary” military and instead suggested a world without armies. Naïve? Possibly, but it makes you wonder what a world free of the threat of armed conflict might be like. Certainly, we would still have problems but isn’t the notion of a planet without global conflict on the scale of a World War a good one?

When I think of the hole left by Carlin, it is his mind and his ability to see things differently that I grieve for. We have not lost a great comic, we have lost a great mind.