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Obituary: Common Sense

Claim:   Essay by George Carlin laments the passing of common sense.

INCORRECT ATTRIBUTION

Example:   [Collected via e-mail, January 2007]

i read this today. its credited to george carlin...true or false?
 

Today we mourn the passing of an old friend by the name of Common Sense.

Common Sense lived a long life but died from heart failure at the brink of the millennium. No one really knows how old he was since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape.

He selflessly devoted his life to service in schools, hospitals, homes, factories and offices, helping folks get jobs done without fanfare and foolishness.

For decades, petty rules, silly laws and frivolous lawsuits held no power over Common Sense. He was credited with cultivating such valued lessons as to know when to come in out of the rain, the early bird gets the worm, and life isn't always fair.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more than you earn), reliable parenting strategies (the adults are in charge, not the kids), and it's okay to come in second.

A veteran of the Industrial Revolution, the Great Depression, and the Technological Revolution, Common Sense survived cultural and educational trends including feminism, body piercing, whole language and "new math."

But his health declined when he became infected with the "If-it-only-helps-one-person-it's-worth-it" virus. In recent decades his waning strength proved no match for the ravages of overbearing federal regulation.

He watched in pain as good people became ruled by self-seeking lawyers and enlightened auditors. His health rapidly deteriorated when schools endlessly implemented zero tolerance policies, reports of six-year-old boys charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate, a teen suspended for taking a swig of mouthwash after lunch, and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student. It declined even further when schools had to get parental consent to administer aspirin to a student but cannot inform the parent when the female student is pregnant or wants an abortion.

Finally, Common Sense lost his will to live as the Ten Commandments became contraband, churches became businesses, criminals received better treatment than victims, and federal judges stuck their noses in everything from Boy Scouts to professional sports.

As the end neared, Common Sense drifted in and out of logic but was kept informed of developments, regarding questionable regulations for asbestos, low flow toilets, "smart" guns, the nurturing of Prohibition Laws and mandatory air bags.

Finally when told that the homeowners association restricted exterior furniture only to that which enhanced property values, he breathed his last.

Common Sense was preceded in death by his parents Truth and Trust; his wife, Discretion; his daughter, Responsibility; and his son, Reason. He is survived by three stepbrothers: Rights, Tolerance and Whiner.

Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone.
 

Origins:   Until George Carlin's death in June 2008, just about any unsourced list of wry or witty observations about politics and social mores eventually became credited to that late comedian as it passed from inbox to inbox, such as "Paradox of Our Time,"
a 'things were better in the good old days' essay executed in the form of a comparison list, "I'm a Bad American," a point-form essay advancing the cause of intolerance, "Hurricane Rules," another point-form essay purporting to offer advice but in reality chiding the people of New Orleans for the alleged misdeeds of some who chose to attempt to ride out Hurricane Katrina instead of evacuating, "Gas Crisis Solution," suggesting U.S. troops be brought home to catch illegal aliens to be shipped off to Iraq to fight in their place, "New Rules for 2006," a list of behavior enjoinders for the new millennia, and "Views on Aging," a collection of tips for coping with the prospect of growing older.

One attribute all the aforementioned essays share is that none of them was the work of George Carlin. Now added to that apocryphal collection is this lament on the death of common sense, a much-reproduced piece which circulates in many variations, typically with no attribution (or, as in this case, an incorrect one). This essay is actually the work of Lori Borgman and was first published in the Indianapolis Star on 15 March 1998. The version attributed to George Carlin above differs in a number of ways from Ms. Borgman's original.

Last updated:   14 April 2009

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