By TOMMY DRUEN
Every once in a while a comedy film is released that is highly quotable. It typically isn’t very profound, but there is a certain genius to it that is difficult to pinpoint. The references can cause an instant bond and differentiate ages quickly.
For example, there is a certain age man that I would never say “Surely, you aren’t serious” without expecting an immediate snicker thanks to Airplane!
Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Blazing Saddles, Christmas Vacation, Tommy Boy . . . the list goes on. These movies are quoted relentlessly, sometimes randomly but often to make a point in a humorous way. When I hear my wife say, “Bye, bye, George. See you next Thursday,” from Father of the Bride, I know she’s taken the allergy medication that knocks her for a loop.
In 1989, one such movie entered my personal list. Centered on two time-traveling high school slackers, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure was bizarre, even for 1980s standards. It was popular at the time, but not one that you see referenced much today. The film had three lasting effects on me though, 1) it introduced me to the work of George Carlin, who soon became one of my favorite comedians, 2) to this day I have a ridiculous mental block that makes me see Socrates and internally pronounce it as “So-crates,” and 3) the quotation “Be excellent to each other.”
Be excellent to each other may simply be a slang version of The Golden Rule, but the simplification is easily understood. Clearly the understanding is easier than the application though. The last several years have vastly proven that excellence is a standard we are far from meeting as a society.
The evidence is getting easier to find each day. Go on YouTube and search “Karens” and you will be inundated with videos of middle aged women erroneously feeling entitled and voicing their displeasure to anyone who will (or won’t) listen. Turn on talk radio and listen to the arrogance of the ignorant, whether it be sports or politics. Click on the comments section of online newspaper stories and find yourself amidst a cacophony of insults by people completely out of touch with reality. Each of these will make you realize that common decency is a far cry from commonplace.
Even the respect for institutions once honored has dissipated. I remember Jackie Mason speaking about how comedians used to speak about the president. “You could joke about his golf game, but never about his putz.” Contrast that to the flag I saw flying in what otherwise appeared to be a very well-kept home on a country road that simply read “F**K Joe Biden,” with the censorship being added by me. While I am thankful for the freedoms given us in the first amendment, somehow I don’t think that is exactly what our founding fathers envisioned.
At risk of being cliché, what are we teaching our children with such actions? We are raising an entire generation who will want to talk to the manager at the slightest of perceived infringement. We are raising a generation who will see opinion as meritorious as fact. We are raising a generation who will not be able to look past personalities and respect offices and institutions for what all they have provided positively.
President Dwight Eisenhower, who had seen upfront the horrors of Nazi atrocities during World War II, uttered these words during his farewell address, “This world of ours . . . must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.”
Mutual trust and respect should be the foundation on which a great society is built. And only when edification is the goal rather than destruction, will progress truly be made. Or, as Bill S. Preston, Esq. said:
Be excellent to each other.
Tommy Druen is a native of Metcalfe County, a graduate of Centre College, and an employee of the Legislative Research Commission in Frankfort. He and his wife, Erin, reside in Georgetown, Kentucky with their two children, Asher and Julia.