Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Lonesome Death of William F. Buckley

I think my favorite moment in William F. Buckley Jr.'s life was when he called Gore Vidal a queer and threatened to punch him in the face on national television. Growing up reading the National Review, I still have sort of a small spot of love for someone as blantantly elitist and divorced from the reality of everyday Americans- he never seemed to realize how growing up rich and going to prep school and Yale probably didn't entitle him to speak about the majority of Americans. Although I'm not sure if he really cared about the majority of Americans, having countered accusations of racism when he said that blacks should be denied the vote by announcing that he didn't believe uneducated Americans of ANY race should be allowed to vote. In any case, I liked his vocabulary, up to the point where it became a cudgel to beat people who hadn't been to prep school, and his impish sense of humor. At least his evil wasn't banal.
The last few years, I saw him a few times on Fox News (which is always playing whenever I get home) and he looked like hell. He was having a hard time speaking, and an even harder time articulating why he was supporting the Bush Administration; I don't think he knew. I think, on a certain level, he realized that the last 20 years of conservatism was hollow at its core, simply a ladder for people that he must have considered beneath him to grasp their way up to undeserved riches. And he had helped them. I like to think that, every night, he heard Bush's dulcet tones, running his beloved English language through a damn mangle. Poor, poor William F. Buckley- you could have done so much, if you'd just been a little bit smarter.

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