Wednesday, February 27, 2008

William F Buckley Dies

It seems like Buckley hovered in the background of my entire childhood. He started National Review in 1955. I was born in 1957. My mother became a US citizen in time to campaign and vote for Barry Goldwater in 1964. But she was interested in right-wing politics before I was born. I was the youngest of her six kids, and by the time I came along, she'd had it with what she called "dirt, diapers and degradation," and started steppin' out. My oldest sister was 10, so she could take care of the younger kids, and we also had the help of our amazing babysitter all through our childhood, Mrs. Schick.

My Mom wasn't steppin' out in the way you might imagine. She didn't have any suiters. Although she was definitely hot. No. She was always more interested in using her brain, and engaging in intellectual discourse, than fooling around with men. Fooling around with a man got her knee high in diapers and six rug rats. She could do without that. So she got involved in politics and worked at Goldwater headquarters in Ardmore, PA. She hooked up with Congressman Dick McClatchy and his wife Maryann, who became lifelong friends. They introduced her to the Ornsteins, who started Mail Call Vietnam, an incredibly successful letter-writing program for soldiers in Vietnam. I sorted mail there, and wrote hilarious letters to soldiers whom I wish I knew today.

All the while, William F. Buckley wrote books, and my mother read them all. He had a TV show, Firing Line, and we watched it every time it was on. I remember his crooked smile, his elevated nose, over which his piercing mischievous eyes looked down upon us all. I believe he skewered liberals, but he was ever so polite, ever so superior. A far cry, shall we say, from the crass and bombastic likes of Rush Limbaugh and Bill Kristol.

William F. Buckley made me want to have a vocabulary. I wanted the same pleasure of watching those $10 words flow out of my own mouth.

According to the New York Times obituary, Buckley was referred to as the liberals’ favorite conservative, and he favored the decriminalization of marijuana. But he fiercely defended McCarthy, who was right about communists infiltrating our country, but chose a stupid and horrible way to deal with it. Buckley also supported segregation and when challenged on his belief that black people shouldn't vote, he amended it to black people and uneducated whites shouldn't vote.

This intellectual elitism, and racism, appealed to my mother.

Feeling superior is a temporary satisfaction to my ego. But, in the end, it doesn't solve any problems. The poor and unfortunate still linger, smelling bad, on the doorstep of the human race. It's why I chose not to be a conservative. I can't spend my life looking away, or up, or down my nose for that matter. Nor can I build a tall enough wall to keep out the riff-raff.

But I continue to hone my vocabulary.


Lime & Tequila said...

He had a stunning vocabulary. I've learned more about him in the past few days. Almost all the coverage has been positive.

Nice read,


Mauigirl said...

Great post about him. I always remember seeing him on TV in my youth with his witty remarks, big words, and his "darting tongue" as I believe it was referred to in an obituary. While neither of us would now agree with his politics, he was indeed part of a lost era of intelligent, polite discourse. We will not see his like again.