At a time when we feel our differences are unprecedented and we feel the divides and “space between us” are insurmountable, there is solace in recognizing that we have always had differences. We have always had deep rifts in our national “tribal subcultures.” Nearly 30 years ago, in 1992, George Carlin exposed a great many of those rifts, I can recall watching his standup special, Jammin’ in New York, when it was fairly new. I remember resonating with his insights, even though, my politics at that time were still evolving and changing, and I didn’t necessarily agree with everything he said.
He also did something, he always did, that resonated with me deeper than any of his digs on the politics and culture of that era. He spent just a little bit of his routine, using his rapier wit to remind us of our shared humanity. He went on a rant about the things we have in common, the things that bring us together.
In Carlin’s unabashed style, it was as profane as it was accurate. I’m going to share that part of the transcript below and edit a few of the curse words just to ensure the censors don’t flag me. For those of you that want to hear the full “unbleeped” rant, you may choose to play the YouTube clip I embedded just below my own “wrap up/food for thought rant” at the bottom of this post.
However you decide to digest this, try to think back to a time where some of the things he is pointing out were not the overused tropes we know them to be today (because yes so many comedians, screen writers and layman borrowed from him, it seems like we have always made these observations.) Instead, listen for the underlying message. No matter what our political, social or cultural divides we are all human. We are messy. More importantly, we are meant to be doing this together.
While we may need to have differences on interpretation and approach to adequately move things forward, those differences need not keep us hopelessly separated. Those differences are not meant to be existential threats to our shared humanity and civilization, they are meant to be a conversation. They are meant to get to the best answer to the puzzle box that asks the question – “how do we go forward, better, and leave things better, for the next generation and the generations that come after that?”
Here’s George on the “Little things that bring us together”
“Now to balance the scale, I’d like to talk about some things that bring us together, things that point out our similarities instead of our differences cause that’s all you ever hear about in this country is our differences. That’s all the media and the politicians are ever talking about: the things that separate us, things that make us different from one another…
…So stirring up the s*** is something I like to do from time to time but I also like to know that I can come back to these little things we have in common, little universal moments that we share separately, the things that make us the same. They’re so small; we hardly ever talk about them.
Do you ever look at your watch… and then you don’t know what time it is? And you have to look again, and you still don’t know the time. So you look a third time and somebody says “what time is it?” you say “I don’t know.”
Do you ever notice how sometimes all day Wednesday, you keep thinking it’s Thursday? And it happens over and over all day long, and then the next day, you’re all right again.
Do you ever find yourself standing in one of the rooms in your house and you can’t remember why you went in there? And two words float across your mind: “Alzheimer’s Disease?!”
You ever been talking to yourself and somebody comes in the room and you have to make believe you were singing? And you hope to God the other person really believes there’s a song called “What Does She Think I Am… Some Kind of Putz?!”
Little experiences we’ve all had… you ever been sitting in a railroad train in the station and there’s another train sitting right next to ya, and one of them starts to move, and you can’t tell which one it is?
How about when you’re out on a small boat on a windy day? You ever been out rocking back and forth for three or four hours trying to keep your balance, rough seas, little boat, then you get back into the shore and you’re standing on the dock and you could swear there was something inside of you that was still out there rocking?
Did you ever try to pick up a suitcase you thought was full but it wasn’t? And you go pwwt… and for just a split second you feel really strong.
How about when you’re looking through a chain link fence?
Did you ever notice if you’re just the right distance from a chain link fence, sometimes it seems to go pwwt [makes a closing in and out motion]? What is that? How do they do that?
Did you ever try to tell somebody they have a little bit of dirt on their face? You can never get them to rub the right spot can you? “Say… you got a little bit of dirt right here.” They always go “where? Here?” and you just wanna slap the bastard!
Do you ever notice how awful your face looks in a mirror in a restroom that has florescent lights? Every cut, scrape, scratch, scar, scab, bruise, boil, bump, pimple, zit, warp, welt, and abscess you’ve had since BIRTH all seem to come back at the same time, and all you can think of is “I GOTTA GET THE F!!! OUTTA HERE!!!”
Did you ever notice sometimes when you’re walking with your arm around your date, one of you has the change the way you’re walking? Men and women don’t walk the same; one of them has to change. Either the man has to walk like this [walks on his toes] or the woman has to walk like this [struts] “Joey, how are ya?”
How about when you’re going up a flight of stairs and you think there’s one more step? And you go ughh. And then you have to kinda keep doing that you know, so people will think it’s something you do all the time. “I do this all the time; it’s the third stage of syphilis.” Same thing happens when you’re going down the stairs. You could swear there was one more step— pfft! “Holy shit! My hips are in my chest!”
When you drink grapefruit juice in the morning, do you go like this? [squints face] I do too! Why do we drink it?!
It’s like ice cream throat. You know when you’ve been eating ice cream too fast and you get that frozen spot in the back of your throat but you can’t do anything about it because you can’t reach it to rub it? You just have to kinda wait for it to go away? And it does… then what do you do? EAT MORE ICE CREAM!!! WHAT ARE WE F!!!ING STUPID?!
Did you ever fall asleep on a late afternoon, you wake up after dark, and you don’t know what (bleep) day it is?
Like when you have your head on a pillow… did you ever notice when you have your head on a pillow, if you close the bottom eye, the pillow is down there, then if you switch eyes, the pillow moves up there? “Whoa, holy s*** Dave! Look at this! The mystery of the moving pillow… I think it’s related to the chain link fence mystery myself.”
Did you ever have to sneeze while you’re taking a piss? It’s frightening isn’t it? It’s frightening cause actually, you can’t do it! It’s physically impossible to sneeze while pissing. Your brain won’t let it happen; your brain says “STOP PISSING!!! YOU’RE GOING TO SNEEZE NOW!!!” cause your brain knows you might blow your a##hole out!”
I know this is a bit antiquated and if you are a younger person reading this you may simply have to trust me about just how novel and funny it was when it was originally uttered, but it is my hope, nonetheless, that it gave you pause when reflecting on our shared humanity.
If you want to read a great book about how to keep talking to people who think differently than you, I’d like to recommend the book I am currently reading. It is called The Space Between Us by Sarah Bauer Anderson.
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