What Buckley Has Done
This forum provides neither the time nor the space for one to adequately thank, or even mention, all of the debts owed William F. Buckley Jr. He holds markers for the world, the country, journalism, conservatism, and me and millions like me. Thankfully, Buckley’s collection methods are, at most, mild, like his disposition.
I have been in a room with Mr. Buckley but once, and it remains one of the highlights of my life. His reception at Meramec Community College in Kirkwood, Missouri in 1983 was remarkable. I was sitting next to a gaggle of middle-aged, genetically Democrat, Irish geese who arrived hours early, like me, to get a seat in the front row. They disparaged Buckley for much of the forty minutes we awaited his entrance to the hall, reserving the balance of the time for hateful denegration of Ronald Reagan and pious lectures explaining that I betray my heritage by even considering voting Republican.
“Every Irish in America would have been killed or sent home if it weren’t for the Democrats,” one woman hissed, her face turning an unhealthy red that betrayed her ethnicity. “As were the blacks,” I responded.
Since time is short, I must find precisely the right thing to mark the passing of National Review’s ownership from Mr. Buckley to a cadre of hand-selected successors. In this search, I realized that no greater tribute can be paid than to look at his first words in that magazine–easily the most important magazine of the second half of the 20th century.
Re-reading this essay yesterday, I was struck by the perpetual nature of the war between the collectivist and the individualist. I was reminded of Buckley’s point in God and Man at Yale, here paraphrased, that the battle between freedom and Communism is the same battle as between good and evil, God and Satan, except on a different plane. The war between conservatism and liberalism, then, must also be this battle fought on still another plane. Or is it the same as freedom and slavery?
I urge you to read this article on NRO and consider that so little has changed in all these years. This observation proves that National Review has, at least to some degree, fulfilled Buckley’s dream of stopping history, even when so few were disposed to doing so.