Monday, June 23, 2008

Crossing the Line

Over the past 2 weeks or so, two important "personalities" died: Tim Russert and George Carlin. Depending on which of these two men you mourn most, I bet I can tell which side of the line you stand on. One lived his professional life near the line, but never crossing it. The other rarely found a line he wouldn't cross.

I have nothing against Tim Russert. He seemed like a decent fellow who would have been a great coworker, friend or family member. However, he's been lionized in the mainstream media for being a tough interviewer -- certainly not in my book! To be fair, as far as the mainstream media goes, he probably was an above average interviewer, but that's not saying very much.

I don't know how many times I sat watching Russert allow elected officials and political candidates off the hook. He always seemed to be heading the right direction, but almost always veered off before getting to the end of the street! He'd ask a quasi-tough question and allow the interviewee either to muddle through a very nonspecific answer or launch into a soliloquy about anything and everything under the sun EXCEPT the topic at hand. I would bang the arm of my recliner, beseeching Tim to ask the obvious next question, yet he rarely did.

Russert would not ask those kinds of questions because he well understood where the line was drawn and, as a member of the ruling class, he knew that he dare not genuinely upset the apple cart.

George Carlin, on the other hand, spent his life upsetting any apple cart within reach. In his comedic monologues, he asked the questions the Tim Russert's of the world refuse even to acknowledge. While he is best known as the man of the "seven words you can't say on TV." Carlin (in my humbled estimation) was not only the best social critic of our time but the conscience of an entire generation.

In his own often crude and profane way, George cut to the quick of the inequalities and injustice that pervades American society. He incessantly shone the light on the "fucking bullshit" of the American ethos the masses are fed everyday and he challenged us to pull ourselves out of the oozing muck of oppression and alienation to become the giving and just society we still can be.

I feel great empathy for the Russert family. They lost a husband, father and friend. But I mourn the passing of George Carlin for we've all lost a clear voice crying in the wilderness of modern life.