William F. Buckley
"William F. Buckley's life," writes Jonah Goldberg, "was marked by enormous joy. He had a lust for life as well as for letters and debate. He raised a wonderful and accomplished son, loved and was loved by a formidable and beautiful wife, had more friends than he could count — or, in a sense, even know — and will be remembered for generations to come. Sadness is to be expected at times like this, and I certainly feel it. But let's leave room for, if not a celebration, then at least grateful appreciation, of a singularly remarkable life."
My first introduction to Bill Buckley's work was in discussions with a software engineer from Raytheon who supervised the first and the original Belmont Club -- a place at which I roomed in Belmont, Massachusetts. The residents were a motley crew. There were normally at least six persons at the rooms; 3 medical students ; one from the Business School, another from MIT. And yours truly. On autumn nights we'd walk to the Friendly's Ice Cream shop every now and again when funds permitted and time allowed. I don't think anybody slept more than five hours a night for years during those grad school days.
But one evening after the ice-cream run, I learned about Bill Buckley. He was described to me as a maddening figure. Someone who saw through the cant of the Left while being too eloquent and intelligence to be easily reviled by them; who bearded them in their own dens even while an undergrad at Yale. And so they left him alone, or so I imagined, as part of an undeclared truce. There was easier targets to mess with.
Thus I learned the myth where Jonah Goldberg knew the man. But the myth was enough. It is hard now, when we take the Internet for granted, to realize how lonely the life of a political rebel was in a world where the Left dominated every discourse. Where every newspaper, magazine, network and book review screamed that you were wrong, it needed faith to remain true to your own thinking. And in times of doubt, when the urge to follow the stampeding herd was greater than ever, there always returned the inspiration of the myth.
That too, was a kind of memory. And as I grew older I realized that all true memories are not just those we have of others, but of something they remind us of in ourselves. Bill Buckley and I never met. But we were old friends.
Listen to Bill Buckley and Gore Vidal discuss, not Vietnam -- though that's ostensibly what its about -- but power in society.