It just came to my attention that William F. Buckley, author, thinker, and conservative icon, has passed away. I know this is a little unusual, since I don’t ordinarily use this space for such reflections, but I just wanted to take a moment to pay my respects to one of the world’s great gentlemen.
I first came across Mr. Buckley’s writings during my college years, when I was immersed in my semi-lefty politics of trendiness. (To my everlasting embarrassment, I did things like vote for fringe third-party candidates and may have even used the term, “the man,” in all seriousness.) In this situation, to encounter Buckley’s depth of thought and witty eloquence was . . .well . . .a little frustrating frankly. It gave me the sinking feeling that I didn’t know what I was talking about and that I was expressing myself poorly to boot.
Since that time, I’ve recognized the shallowness of many of my former positions and started treating politics and issues of policy with the seriousness they deserve. (That is, sometimes they deserve to be taken utterly seriously, and sometimes they deserved to be laughed at until they collapse.) I may not always have agreed with Mr. Buckley’s positions–though over time I found myself increasingly influenced by his arguments. I somehow doubt that this reflects him becoming considerably more liberal. Regardless, I have always admired the principle and rigorous thought that went into his arguments.
Most of all, however, I admired his writing. To some extent it may be a matter of taste, but one can go a long time before finding another author with such a strong and precise command of the language. I was forever in awe of the craftsmanship that seemed evident in his sentences–in his honor, I’d really have to describe his writing as lapidary. (A word a learned from one of his articles and never thought I’d get the chance to use in real life.)
I did not know Mr. Buckley or his family, but I offer them my deepest condolences. We have lost a great man, and our country and our language is poorer for it.