Those Did Not Meet Him Feel The Lack

Please allow this brief aside for a brief remembrance of William F. Buckley, Jr.  Below is a copy of an e-mail I sent to those at National Review and National Review Online.

When I think to what William F. Buckley meant to me, I set aside the political influence.  When in college, back when I was a haphazard pot-smoking hippie redneck with ill-considered radical libertarian leanings, he was foremost an example of a fine man.
I can remember sitting around a coffee table with some like-minded friends, and some leftist ones, and we all agreed.  His interests expanded beyond politics, his humanitarian instincts were obvious even to those who disagreed with his policy positions, and almost without fail he was exceedingly gracious and kind.
The young men around that table would not generally be expected to receive warm welcome in stereotypically conservative company, but we all concurred in our high estimation of him.  My estimation has only increased over time as maturity has taught me how challenging and difficult being right with the world can be.
Today is indeed a day for both sadness and celebration.  Not too much of the former, though.  As my own father observed upon the death of his dad, a full and righteous life lived to its natural end is the most any of us can hope for in our brief time here.  Mr. Buckley most assuredly achieved this, as the testimonies of those closest to him will surely show.
Of course, his politics informed me as well.  More and more over time, in fact.  But if I learned anything from him it is this:  Life is much more than politics and haggling over ideological nuance.  We all owe him a debt of gratitude, both Left and Right.

6 responses to “Those Did Not Meet Him Feel The Lack

  1. Perhaps it was only pre senile dementia that made him so eloquently support GWB?

  2. Time and a place, friend. I hope that doesn’t pass for respect in your hometown!

    Besides, you imply he was some sort of predictable ideologue. Were his criticisms of Bush the Younger and the Iraq War– which succeeded his advocacy of Dubya– symptoms of pre-senile dementia as well?

    Seems to me you need to recraft your bon mot.

  3. LOL…There’s nothing wrong with my bon mot.

    Sorry….now I’m being a snob because I knew instantly. ….

    The first time I saw GWB on TV – back in about 1998 or 99, I got a terrible frisson and the hair stood up on the back of my neck.

    I guess it’s only because I was still in touch with my feelings, and with reality. Buckely was firmly stuck in his silly scholastic intelligenzia IMAGE of reality.

    Buckley was most likely too busy thinking up $10 words to have any intuition or common sense left at all. All cerebellum – no rear brain– no soul.

    When I was in high school, we used to think he was the cat’s meow.

    But I grew up.

  4. No soul? Really? I can, perhaps, see someone making the case that he was a little out of touch. That perhaps a little more time with the beer crowd rather than the wine and brandy crowd would have done him good.

    It’s impossible, though, to read all these testimonials in the wake of his death and not be struck by how everyone agrees he was a real mensch personally. Take a look at this piece from before WFB’s death from Joe Sobran:

    Sobran had every reason to dislike Buckley personally, and find him a bastard. Buckley threw him under the bus when– in his opinion– Sobran’s views began to verge on the anti-semitic. Thereafter, Sobran was not only sacked from National Review, but had difficulty getting hired anywhere.

    Nevertheless, Sobran continued to testify to Buckley’s unstinting loyalty and compassion as a friend. And this, as I said, is the real lesson of his life: You may disagree with his politics, and even think they promote an environment where the poor and meek are scorned. I don’t think that, but some people do.

    In the face of that, though, everyone who *knew* him understood that he thought what he thought out of charity, care, and empathy. People knew that because he carried himself in his personal life so obviously with love.

    He believed– and I concur– that free-market principles are, tautologically, Human Rights principles. Freedom– economic and otherwise– really does lead to the most good for the most people. And that’s what we’re all supposed to be after.

    Some conservatives say this, but don’t believe it. They’re really just advocating what’s best for them. And that’s fine.

    But Buckley indubitably led his personal life so altruistically that ascribing such merely selfish motivation to him was patently absurd. You will not find anyone, anywhere, writing that Bill Buckley was aloof, mean, snobbish, or “soulless”. For a public figure of his magnitude, in politics, that is simply stunning.

    For me it is still a struggle to live life altruistically and discern where my opinions are merely reflections of my own envy and selfishness. If it was a similar struggle for him, nobody could ever tell. That is something to which we should all aspire regardless of our place on the political spectrum.

  5. Very well written…I take back what I said about his having no soul.

    I suppose I saw him as “out of touch” once I went out in the real world and had to struggle to survive myself.

    He WAS fun to make fun of, though 😉

  6. That’s very kind of you to say. Thanks.

    And yes: I agree it was certainly great fun to have fun at his expense.

    “Hmmm. Yes. Well, but, uhhh, don’t you see, though, the salient point you may be missing, is, uhhh, that you are totally misguided? Hmmm?”

    I think he actually said something like that to a person on “Firing Line.”

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