William F. Buckley, Jr.

Posted by Censor Librorum on Apr 6, 2008 | Categories: Arts & Letters, Humor, Politics

William F. Buckley, Jr., founder of National Review magazine, and a driving force in the rise of conservative politics in the post-war era, had his memorial service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York on April 4th. The recessional piece, Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F Major, was also the theme for “Firing Line,” Buckley’s long-running syndicated television show. All 2,200 seats in St. Patrick’s were filled. His memorial, announced weeks in advance, was open to the public.

Politically, Buckley described himself as a “conservative controversialist.”  But unlike some of his right-wing heirs, he  did not interrupt his political opponents. Rather, he gave them time to articulate their positions during his debates. And Buckley’s provocative remarks were mostly ameliorated by humor, elegant diction, and a mischevious smile.wfbuckleyjr11.jpg

During one memorable encounter on ABC with Gore Vidal, however, Buckley lost his temper – responding with a homophobic slur and threatening to sock Vidal in the face when the author called him a “cryto-Nazi.”

The two never made up, and Vidal kept throwing darts at Buckley and his politics.

“Granted, Buckley’s brand of conservatism, especially in the early years, had its ugly side,” Hendrik Hertzberg wrote recently for the New Yorker. “He embraced (Sen. Joseph) McCarthy and McCarthyism. He conflated liberalism and communism. He dismissed the civil rights movement….But he did his best to purge the right of anti-Semitism, overt racism, xenophobia, philistinism and anti-intellectualism.”

Here’s my take:   I liked Bill Buckley the way I liked John Cardinal O’Connor. I liked them for their character, and the fact they were multi-dimensional human beings with a sense of humor. What I also appreciated about them was their graciousness. They spoke with irony (how could they not…they were Irish), but without any meanness.

There is a quality of meanness in many conservative Catholic bloggers that is a big turn-off. If you express a differing opinion from the Magisterium and/or Republican Party, you get bulls-eye’d–not engaged as a fellow human being. Particularly spiteful posts are often accompanied by a vultures’ chorus of “Blessed Mother protect us” type of sentiments, or heart-felt wishes   the Pope will whack the hell of whatever miscreant(s) are getting kicked. Folks, what happened to the Gospel?

For the other side, offer an opinion that can be perceived as one millimeter over the line of political-correctness, and you will find yourself frozen in  intellectual and social Siberia. Forever.   Folks, the mind and the spirit need to be free to roam. Creative solutions don’t come from lockstep views.

What happened to just having a discussion? You can be passionate; you can get heated, but is it necessary to have contempt when you disagree?

Buckley spoke in sentences, not platitudes. He is a good role model for every Catholic that takes up the pen, and values a good “turn of the phrase.”

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