Thursday, February 12, 2009

I get it now

I was treading along on my treadmill late one evening and surprise! there was nothing on television for me to watch while I walked. I tried PBS where I found a special posthumous awards presentation for the comedian George Carlin. They were honoring his life's work by showing clips of comedy routines surrounded by testimonials from other comedians who'd looked up to him. I stayed awhile to watch.

It brought me back to another awards presentation I'd seen probably 20 years ago. Bob Hope was receiving an award in his 90s, some sort of lifetime achievement award. The presentation included movie clips, black and white photographs of him singing and dancing on vaudeville, video of him entertaining the troops over the years, and testimonials from friends and colleagues lauding his life and talent.

I must stop here and confess I've never thought Bob Hope was very funny.

Mr. Hope: "I say, Ms. Judy, how are you this fine evening?"
Ms. Judy: "Just lovely, Mr. Hope. I'm as fit as a fiddle."
Mr. Hope: "Got any rosin?"

Generation gap in humor, I suppose.
Despite this, I was still deeply impressed. I took away from the show a greater desire to lead a good life and to pursue my talents.

Which brings me back to the PBS special.

As with Mr. Hope, I didn't think Mr. Carlin was very funny. Not my kind of humor. Where this show differed from the former, and what eventually led me to change the channel, was the tenor of the "humor" as displayed in some of the montages. One clip, where he gleefully rips the ten commandments, was introduced by Bill Maher. Maher managed to put a plug in for his new book "Religulous" while crediting Mr. Carlin for his inspiration and praising him for his groundbreaking work. What I saw in the clip, on the contrary, was blasphemy as art. And I gave it a chance, even after the intro by Maher. But the audience apparently agreed with Mr. Maher and they all chuckled and applauded.

The one thing I took away from this show: How much we've changed.

As I listened to Mr. Maher, I was reminded of a know-it-all teenager who's discovered his parents aren't perfect and, disillusioned, is now blaming everything that goes wrong in the world on the institution of parenting. His mission it would seem, as the enlightened teenager, is to mock the foolishness of those who "parent" (metaphor for "religion").

I've heard people harp on and on about the Crusades as a prime example of where religion takes us morally. Have we forgotten Mr. Stalin, the atheist, and the millions he slaughtered during his tenure? Have we all become lazy enough to assume people are always who they say they are?

Believe me, I get it. Not every Christian is christian. Christian people have done bad things. Is this sufficient reasoning for religious morals and ethics to be mocked, dishonored, and gleefully tossed out? That's quite a leap, if you actually stop to think about it.

While we're at it, why not do the same for the Constitution. There have been bad people and bad policies here as well. Let's just can this whole democracy thing. It obviously doesn't work.

Or hey, let's all mock and ridicule the education system (oh wait, we already do...). Not everyone who attends school comes out smart and capable, so it's clearly a waste of time learning to read and write. And it's boring anyway. And if we all stay home we can spend more time having fun! Win win!

It's all or nothing, apparently. Seems to me that for people like Bill Maher only Nothing is sacred.