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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

William F. Buckley - Farewell, Father

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His was a grand life of import and meaning. When William F. Buckley passed away today he left a legacy of ideas that don't just resonate in the mind but which have played out in the lives of millions. The Conservative movement of the last fifty years was set in motion by a single-minded Buckley using all the many tools he had at his command (and they were many); his intellect, his humor, his sense of decency and his devout commitment to God. Ronald Reagan is often looked to as the central figure of modern conservatism and no one did more than he to popularize that philosophy and put it to work in people's lives. But before Reagan acted, he read and thought and what he read and the ideas he thought were pure Buckley.

The appearance of the small circulation (15,000!) magazine that Buckley started in 1955, National Review, though appearing with no particular fanfare to the world at large has, in many ways changed that world. Buckley's achievement was to crystallize conservatism, to wipe away the fringes that tried to adhere to it and prove it to be a powerful movement, the strength and rightness of its ideas making it impossible to dismiss. He presented a thoughtful conservatism whose ideas attracted not just Reagan but generations of young people who saw the need to do what Buckley said in that first editorial in National Review, " stand athwart history yelling Stop". And while history is a dynamic thing, its drift to the Left always to be fought, no one fought it more stolidly and succeeded as well as Buckley, whose forceful anti-communism was so historically brought to life by Reagan's pushing the Soviet Union into oblivion.

But Buckley was not a humorless bulldog. Quite the contrary, he won his points and converts with not just intellectual fervor but with humor and enjoyment of the life God had given him. He was a man possessed of a breathtaking number of talents; a polemicist with an unerring command of the language, a novelist, an editor, a seaman, television host, conversationalist par excellence. And by all reports he was that rare man gifted beyond the norm but whose generosity of spirit was the equal of his talents. His friendships were many and he didn't let political differences get in the way, being close to people across the political spectrum. In today’s toxic political atmosphere it is almost shocking to see how many Men of the Left admired and liked this ultimate Man of the Right. And he was also a good and loving husband and father and, in what may be the secret of his personal kindness, he was a loyal and devout Catholic.

Those of us who feel compelled to argue and assert and write and publish and post know that we are merely following, however imperfectly, his lead. Whenever we sit down before our keyboards and try to conjure our arguments for freedom and personal liberty we know that he is the model we are all emulating. We wish we had his erudition and his sly wit. We don't but the fact that we try is an act of appreciation of him and the active inner life he unleashed in us.

His life was well lived and not short and we can take satisfaction in that as he leaves us. We will look for more like him but we are unlikely to find one to match him. Conservatism today, can legitimately said to be in something of a crisis of confidence. It will pass. Its ideas are too good not to rally and prevail. Now there are more of us than just one young man standing athwart history. We’re that young man’s children, there are millions of us and we haven’t forgotten. We’re still yelling Stop.

Good night, father and thank you.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Here here!!!!

Well stated! He will be missed.