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Real Answers™
Copyright: © 2008 Gary Hardaway
700 words


By: Gary Hardaway

On a June night long ago, as our high school class lined up to march into our graduation ceremony, the guy behind me kept a bunch of us in stitches doing a comedy routine he had picked up somewhere, something about a “hippy-dippy weather man.”

The bumbling prognosticator ruefully admitted that a lot of people were shoveling about two feet of “partly cloudy” off their driveways that morning. “Sorry about that.” Then he did a little musical forecasting “from Natchez to Mobile, from Memphis to St. Joe.” Our class comic was almost as good as George Carlin, the inimitable originator of the riff.

Carlin, who died of heart failure June 22, kept us laughing for a few years with zany stuff.

Picture a class of young Indians learning warrior skills such as “sneaking through the woods without making a sound.” The instructor proudly announces that everybody in class has passed – “except limping ox.” 

Or consider the momentous question: “why do we drive on parkways and park on driveways?” And what in the world is a “jumbo shrimp?”

But around 1970 Carlin veered into the slough of slime. The young audience he most identified with – and substantially personified -- was into sex, drugs, rebellion, and anti-war bitterness. Carlin’s “humor” now attacked the traditional values of the generation that had made him rich and famous.

He relished vile language. The Associated Press described his “Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television” as his most celebrated monologue.” In 1975 Carlin hosted the first ever Saturday Night Live broadcast, later admitting that all week before the performance he was wasted on cocaine. (Massive overdoses would later claim SNL stars John Belushi,1981, and Chris Farley, 1997.)

Morally, spiritually, culturally, George Carlin, who eventually became an atheist, spilled vast amounts of filth and garbage into the minds of his millions of fans. It’s not a legacy to be proud of. But in the strangely perverse realm of contemporary media group-think, Carlin is “mourned as a gifted counterculture hero.” He was, we are told, “a genius,” “one of the greats,” so very “brave.”

Carlin’s “hero,” and primary influence was Lenny Bruce, probably the first major comedian to lace his routines with obscenities. His early work was pretty clean and funny. But a film clip of Bruce, made in his last year, shows a bleary-eyed, shuffling, incoherent wreck of a man mumbling into the camera, not long for this world. When drugs soon sent him to the morgue, the headline read, “The Final Four-Letter Obscenity: Lenny Bruce, Dead at 40.”

In a better world Bruce, Belushi, and Farley would be mourned for wasted lives and talents, for needlessly scrambling their brains and destroying their bodies. One would add Richard Pryor, often foul-mouthed, often loaded on free-based cocaine, though he, like Carlin, did die of natural causes at 65. (One does wonder, however, if either or both might have lived years longer if they hadn’t ingested so much harmful substance during their lifetimes).

In a better world the word “hero,” would be used sparingly of men and women whose exemplary lives inspire generations to live more nobly. Heroes lift us to serve others and, perchance, our God. Anti-heroes exalt degradation and deviancy. Self-appointed purveyors of entertainment culture assault our morals and prod us to “question our belief systems,” as if they, of all people, have some idea of the meaning of life.

Our bodies, our minds, and our marvelous language ability are gifts to be respected. As human beings, not animals, we are – according to biblical tradition -- fashioned “in the image of God.” Language thus becomes a medium for conveying blessing and encouragement to others.

Good clean humor can brighten the day, cheer the heart, or break the monotony of a drab routine. A well-crafted tease can say, “You’re my friend,” or even say “I love you,” to a spouse. But beware the opposite.

 “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.”  Trash talk and gutter garbage ruin our capacity to love. It’s no joke. 

Gary Hardaway is executive director of Summit School of Ministry in Northwest Washington. He holds a Ph. D in foundations of education and is a member of the National Association of Scholars.  He has taught in universities in the USA, Lithuania and Canada. "Real Answers™" furnished courtesy of The Amy Foundation Internet Syndicate. To contact the author or The Amy Foundation, write or E-mail to: P. O. Box 16091, Lansing, MI 48901-6091;

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