"Heaven has a road, but no one travels it; Hell has no gate, but men will bore through to get there."

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

C'est possible? Conservative... And Intellectual In The Same Sentence


I had the pleasure of meeting William F. Buckley several times while organizing political forums, discussion groups and even an episode of his award-winning PBS program Firing Line. He once played Chopin on a dilapidated little piano in our student union for my boyfriend who had always idolized him while waiting to take the podium at an event.

His spirit represents something we see very little of today- intelligent, tolerant, reasoned, non-judgmental and yes- wise conservatism. A world view more about preserving what is best rather than bending the world to our views and excoriating those who disagree. In the ranks of today's conservative milieu, Buckley would be a giant among pygmies, both intellectually and as regards character. His delightful and often playful ironic wit would totally confound most Republicans at a cocktail gathering. He had traveled the world, was "omni-accomplished," loved life and the variety of human experience and was curious about and interested in everything. His beliefs grew out of recognizing that many grand liberal schemes actually were contrived contrary to human nature and spiritual laws and had had their fair runs. They were also heavily influenced by World War II and the ensuing Cold War and he was a shrewd observer of the tendency of power to corrupt- regardless of who was holding it.

One can only imagine what excesses of the conservative movement and the Bush administration could have been checked and limited had Mr. Buckley exercised his characteristic courage and turned the big guns of his intellect and prose on some of his own in recent years. But he was too loyal for that and would be the first to remind us that loyalty is a virtue.

I would have settled for a Firing Line with Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Rove et al. on the panel, and Bill asking each of them to explain how they could possibly call themselves conservatives? Then he could continue by inserting the silver-tipped barb of his tongue into the cold hearts of Rush Limbaugh and Anne Coulter- surely from his point of view annoying, shrill and mean-spirited pretenders to the commentator's chair.

Then I would have asked him to play me some Chopin and tell me about his latest sailing adventure and expressed my desire to smoke a joint with him in international waters.

Au Revoir Mr. Buckley!

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