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People think of Mark Twain as a kindly uncle with a twinkle in his eye. Actually, Twain’s humor–especially in his later life–had a dark underbelly. “The Mysterious Stranger” and “Letters from the Earth” mercilessly skewered religion. But even the relatively light “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” has such moments. For example,  Huck describes the pigs who go into the local church during the week to get cool: “If you notice, most folks don’t go to church only when they’ve got to; but a hog is different.” (101)

I thought about the lopsided way Twain is represented when I started receiving, from several sources, this quotation from George Carlin:

“Now, there’s one thing you might have noticed I don’t complain about: politicians. Everybody complains about politicians. Everybody says they suck. Well, where do people think these politicians come from? They don’t fall out of the sky. They don’t pass through a membrane from another reality. They come from American parents and American families, American homes, American schools, American churches, American businesses and American universities, and they are elected by American citizens. This is the best we can do folks. This is what we have to offer. It’s what our system produces: Garbage in, garbage out. If you have selfish, ignorant citizens, you’re going to get selfish, ignorant leaders. Term limits ain’t going to do any good; you’re just going to end up with a brand new bunch of selfish, ignorant Americans. So, maybe, maybe, maybe, it’s not the politicians who suck. Maybe something else sucks around here… like, the public. Yeah, the public sucks. There’s a nice campaign slogan for somebody: ‘The Public Sucks. F*ck Hope.'”

Like Twain, Carlin is not one to let religion off the hook, as you can see in a YouTube video, but this posting is about his many pronouncements on politics: You can take a look for yourself, but let me offer a few:


“Bipartisan usually means that a larger-than-usual deception is being carried out.”

“The owners of this country know the truth: It’s called the American dream because you have to be asleep to believe it.” (Watch George Carlin rant about the American Dream)

And another longish one:

“I have solved this political dilemma in a very direct way: I don’t vote. On Election Day, I stay home. I firmly believe that if you vote, you have no right to complain. Now, some people like to twist that around. They say, ‘If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain,’ but where’s the logic in that? If you vote, and you elect dishonest, incompetent politicians, and they get into office and screw everything up, you are responsible for what they have done. You voted them in. You caused the problem. You have no right to complain. I, on the other hand, who did not vote — who did not even leave the house on Election Day — am in no way responsible for that these politicians have done and have every right to complain about the mess that you created.” (Watch George Carlin rant about voting.)

The news reports after Carlin’s death, though, focused on how much people loved Carlin’s riff on seven words you can’t say on television. Maybe that’s because the public was ready to hear that message and much less ready to hear what he thought about religion and politics. Darrin Bell, the writer of Candorville, thinks so (follow the links to large, easy to read versions of these two strips):

But whatever the public may have thought, Bell appreciated Carlin’s cynicism about politics:

He means we deserve Claire and Barack folding on FISA? Yes. I listened to newsmen on Diane Rehm’s Friday News Roundup recently talking about Obama caving on that issue. They calmly explained that he had figured the political calculus and done himself some good by being seen as a moderate. No one so much as mentioned the Constitutional damage being done. The discussion was all and only about the numbers. Obama isn’t voting for new citizens. He’s dealing with the selfish, ignorant ones he’s been given.