God Bless and Keep William F. Buckley
Rush Limbaugh on Buckley:
It's a shame to even attach the term conservatism to this because it's too narrow. It's just right. These are principles by which people live and order their lives, and they have been shown over the course of human history to work and to be infallible in governing people, in governing one's own affairs, leading one's own life, establishing mechanisms by which people, nations, can manage their affairs to the best of society's purposes and intents.
Kevin D. Williamson quoted Buckley:
"I will not cede more power to the state. I will not willingly cede more power to anyone, not to the state, not to General Motors, not to the CIO. I will hoard my power like a miser, resisting every effort to drain it away from me. I will then use my power, as I see fit. I mean to live my life an obedient man, but obedient to God, subservient to the wisdom of my ancestors; never to the authority of political truths arrived at yesterday at the voting booth. That is a program of sorts, is it not? It is certainly program enough to keep conservatives busy, and liberals at bay. And the nation free." William F. Buckley Jr., in Up From LiberalismJames S. Robbins writes of encountering Buckley's writing in the 70s.
I've often thought about, growing up in the 70s, the sense of anticipation reading WFB's column in my local paper. In those dark days his was the only voice of optimism I remembered. While the culture and many of my peers were trying to tell me that America was in decline, that the good times (aka "the 60s, man") were over, that we had to get used to second class status as a nation and a people, I could always count on WFB to either argue that things were better than we thought, or if there was something wrong, we could do something about it. We did not have to be passive and accept the negative judgement or flawed reasoning of others; we could fight back. I discovered Firing Line by accident — it came on TV after something else I had been watching and I paused to listen to the theme music — then after an embarrassingly long time I figured out the the man on TV and the man writing those great columns were the same guy! I found out about National Review like many people my age, from Annie Hall ("Why don'tcha get William F. Buckley to kill the spider?"). I loved getting the magazine in the mail, seeing what was in store that issue, especially in the pre-wired days when there was no way of knowing the contents in advance. It was a pre-packaged set of intellectual adventures with a wonderful puzzle in the back. I thought then that if I could ever write for William F. Buckley's magazine, I would be as happy and proud as I could be. And in time I did, and I was, and I am.John O'Sullivan describes what Buckley's work meant when translated into the real world.
When news of Bill's death reached me, I was in Prague. It was [a] suitable and perhaps comforting place to hear such sad news since Prague is one of the great European cities Bill helped to liberate from communism. Eighteen years ago he and I were here on a National Review Institute political tour of Eastern Europe. This was only a year after the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the "velvet revolutions." Because of Bill's leadership in the anti-Communist and conservative movements, everyone wanted to meet him. New ministers, heads of new political parties, and editors of old national newspapers (with new editorial lines) told him of how they had read smuggled copies of NR during the years that the Communist regime condemned them to work as stokers and quarry-men.
He took it all very humbly and even a little quizzically. It was as if he didn't quite believe that he had blown a trumpet and, lo, the walls of Communism had tumbled down — "literally," to use a word whose misuse he occasionally denounced. He was a great man and a figure of great historical significance. He founded the American conservative movement that, among many other achievements, won the Cold War. But he wanted to slip quietly away to avoid the presidents and prime ministers rushing up to ask for his autograph.
Jonah Goldberg finished an ode to Buckley upon his 80th Birthday as follows:
William F. Buckley understood that conservatism can only be a partial philosophy of life, because any calling which claims to be a whole philosophy of life is not one at all. It is a religion, and in all likelihood a false one. Armed with this conviction, he changed the world by arguing with those who could not comprehend that a man could be joyful, charming, generous, and passionate about hobbies and people far outside politics while walking against what all the right people insisted was the tide of All Good Things. In this he remains the archetype for conservatism, properly understood.
Conservatives believe in dreams but we don’t believe they can ever be made reality in this life.
Watch Buckley debate Chomsky, from 1969. Part 1.
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