His jokes were not just funny, but frightening. And sobering.
George Carlin was one of my personal heroes. I always envisioned him as a modern day Socrates, stirring up the youth with ideas that their parents would have regarded as somewhat heretical. In fact, I had been working on a script in the back of my mind, which would detail the life of Socrates up until his death upon the sipping of hemlock. George Carlin, also in my mind, was supposed to play that role.
He would have been ideal for it. He was sharp, smart and very much the curmudgeon. He was bitter about society, not because it needed to change but because people has lost their minds and their identities. It wasn’t just the updates on our society, but the way those changes were leading us further and further ever-stumbling towards disconnecting from one another.
One of his jokes that stood out to me was how we have taken the word “shell-shock” and turned it into a euphemism with much less sting – post-traumatic stress disorder. He contended that if we had kept that word in place, shell-shock, then a lot more of our veterans would be getting the medical attention they needed.
Carlin was big on euphemisms and the study of words. After all, words are nothing more than a reflection )or refraction?) of our ideas and our thinking. Words have power. As a Latin teacher and a philologist, I understand that. George Carlin helped open my eyes – or ears – to it. You just have to stop and listen.
The world will go on for a brief time talking about missing Carlin, a comic genius. Then they will stop. What is more disturbing to me is that there are few, if any, that can step in and keep our society in check. We need more George Carlins now, more than ever, to be that watchdog of society. Sure actions speak louder than words, but in today’s smoky era of big government and corporations and lobbyists, those actions are wrapped in words just as swords are sheathed.
Carlin never sipped the hemlock. Yet, without his presence our society continues to do so itself. We gradually forget our traditions and our culture and what made us what we are. George Carlin never seemed to lose sight of that. We are all diseased.