William F. Buckley, Jr.

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I’m a bit late for the William F. Buckley, Jr. obituary party.

Oddly for a pansexual sodomite I was a fan.

Many, many years ago as a lad I heard this voice coming out of the TV while my daddy was watching the news. The vocal tones and diction were so attractive that I went to see what he was watching. It was Buckley. What he was talking about I don’t recall.

His drawl and vocabulary were fetching. This led me to buy The Jeweler’s Eye. And, later, other collections of his miscellaneous prose.

William F. Buckley, Jr.’s led me to take an interest in politics (long since abandoned) and contemporary culture. It ramified out in atypical ways.

Buckley’s essays led to Normal Mailer’s, The New York Review of Books. It caused me to discover Susan Sontag who in turn led me to Allain Robbe-Grillet, Genet and all sorts of culture far from Buckley itself. Buckley proved an entry point to a larger world.

While Buckle’s politics could never be mind I continued to enjoy his essays for several years. And The Unmaking of the Mayor about his whimsical run for mayor of New York City remains to this day one of the most entertaining books on American politics I’ve ever read.

Often I’ve found myself deeply annoyed with friends whose politics are closer to my own whose disgust with Buckley led them to make idiotic accusations.

I never found his prose style remotely pretentious.
I’m sorry your sub-literate slobs but he did use those long words correctly.
He wasn’t’ a racist: Buckley is best understood as na´ve.

On Firing Line some of what people complained of as condescending came from his participation in formal debating. That style of debate is probably still best seen in the Oxford Union debates.

The epistemology of debating is persuasion. Not simpleminded notions of proof. This is part of our heritage from classical Greece that became a part of English education and persisted into the 19th century. The English universities were founded often with a mind to training clergy. They also became the first proving grounds for politicians.

This is also the basis for much juridical epistemology.

People all to fond of objectivity - many of whom purport to celebrate subjectivity and relativism - find this disgusting.

I never felt that his wealth and my poverty gave me a reason to resent Buckley.

The interest in American politics that he sparked in me sustained itself on writers likely Buckley and on the other end, the socialist Murray Kempton. Highly educated, gifted prose stylists, witty - a word probably much despised nowadays - urbane.

It was when public discourse shifted from the Buckleys and Kemptons to Limbaugh and the like that my interest in political conversations died. Wit was replaced with rancor. Irony with sarcasm.

William Buckley’s columns grew less interesting over time. I felt his enjoyment in political analysis peaked and passed when he was in his fifties. But he could continue to knock out desultory columns in minutes and did so.

I didn’t need to agree with him to enjoy the aesthetics of his presence. Nor did I let my disagreements lead me to disgust.

That he died comfortably while still at work makes me happy for him.

I do mourn his passing.

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William F. Buckley, Jr.
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