I posted a blog entry yesterday (“Love in a Time of Tribalism”) in which, citing the case of Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), I lamented the ideological passions and partisan rifts that are increasingly tearing families, neighborhoods, and friendships apart.
Rod Dreher, a writer for whom I have considerable respect — see, for example, my 11 May 2017 article in the Deseret News, “‘The Benedict Option’ or ‘The Brigham Option’?” — had this to say about the Kinzinger case, in an article kindly called to my attention by “LB,” a reader of my blog:
And now the death of Rush Limbaugh has given us yet another redundant example of the toxic nature of our current political and other discourse:
To say that I find such expressions as are catalogued here — and a number that I’ve seen about Rush Limbaugh independently, on my own — both appalling and utterly contemptible would be putting it mildly. And, for what little it’s worth, I’m the target of similar sentiments on most days, at least once or twice. (Most take the form of anonymous emails.) I’ve even had people vowing to desecrate my grave when the time comes, which, for them, apparently cannot be soon enough.
I simply cannot understand rejoicing at the death of anybody.
There’ve been a few occasions when I’ve grimly said to myself that, well, a death was justified. Or that it would end a problem. Or that it served justice. But I’ve never been delighted.
I’ve read about tailgate parties and keggers at the perimeter walls of prisons when a murderer was about to be executed, and about the joy and dancing that have sometimes occurred when news came that the prisoner was dead.
I cannot fathom such reactions. For myself, even when I consider an execution justified — I’m not an enthusiastic fan of capital punishment, but I’m not a committed opponent of it, either; I would be fine if it were to go away — my thought is that, at best, it was a tragic necessity. The person executed (just like the person or persons that he or she presumably killed) was a child of God and was, once, some mother’s adorable little baby. What a sorrowful wreck of a life. What innocence and what potential lost.
So — since I had no such reaction even to the death of Saddam Hussein or Usama Bin Laden, only grim satisfaction (if even quite that) — I cannot, simply cannot, understand joyous reactions to the passing of Rush Limbaugh.
But please permit me to say something about my own reaction to the man.
Many years ago, probably all the way back in the nineties of the previous century, in the last millennium, I listened to Rush Limbaugh’s radio program quite a bit. Not every day, and never for a full three-hour show — my teaching schedule wouldn’t allow that — but in stolen snatches of time between classes or while driving or doing routine, mundane, mindless tasks. He was never my intellectual guru with regard to my free-market-oriented, constitutionalist, federalist conservative beliefs. I had already been heavily influenced by such writers as William F. Buckley, Henry Hazlitt, F. A. Hayek, George Will, Russell Kirk, Frédéric Bastiat, Milton Friedman, Ludwig von Mises, John Stuart Mill, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and, relatively briefly but quite intensely when I was in my teens, Ayn Rand. But I almost always agreed with Rush Limbaugh, and I thought him extremely entertaining and often very, very funny. He was, I thought, a genuinely happy warrior.
I saw the repeated claims of critics that he was hateful, a racist and a bigot, and so forth, but I never really encountered that supposed side of him and, candidly, I don’t believe it. But, of course, maybe I was deceived by a sampling error. Perhaps he was a toxic racist and homophobe all the time except when I was listening. More likely, though, it was just people on the left refusing to grant that people on the right might, occasionally, be decent, principled individuals who simply saw things differently than they did — but who were not driven by hatred and moral depravity. (I’ve been on the receiving end of such hostile mind-reading myself for a very long time now.)
I haven’t really listened to Rush Limbaugh at all for at least the past five or six years. Mostly, I suppose, and certainly initially, because my schedule and commitments just didn’t really allow it anymore. But then his broadcasts began, or so it seemed to me, to be as much or even more about fervent loyalty to one particular politician than to the principles of free-market conservatism and limited government. I simply couldn’t stand it, so I stopped even dialing through. It was the same reason that I stopped listening to Sean Hannity, whom I had, anyway, never enjoyed nearly as much. (Even in the old days when Hannity shared his show with the liberal co-host Alan Colmes, who sadly passed away back in 2017 at only 66, I often found myself liking Colmes much better than Hannity, despite my far greater agreement with Hannity on the substance of any given dispute.)
Still, I mourn the loss of Rush Limbaugh. He helped to break the stranglehold of progressivism on the mass media — to the extent, anyway, that that has actually been accomplished. Indeed, he may have been the one indispensable person in that achievement. And I liked him. At least, I did several years ago. Requiescat in pace.
His death should remind us that political issues are not the most important issues. That even wealth and fame and success and vivid personalities cannot deliver us from death. That a few things will matter forever, while most things are both relatively trivial and entirely transient.
Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going?
Political disputes and partisan factions have nothing important to say on such questions, no comfort to give, to ultimate meaning to bestow.
Yesterday, I posted the following little note in a blog entry:
“Finally, I’m happy to report that I’ve accepted an invitation to write a column (bi-weekly or, anyway, as bi-weekly as I choose to make it) for Meridian Magazine. It will start when I start it.”
I’m being attacked for it, at the usual place. Quelle surprise!
It was, apparently, an arrogant, bizarre, and childish outburst.
Here’s what happened: The editors at Meridian asked me to write a regular column for them. I agreed to do so. And I asked when they wanted me to start. (I’m going through an uuusually busy two weeks just now.). Whenever you’re ready, they responded, asking me simply to tell them when I intended to begin, so that they could adjust their internal scheduling accordingly. Hence my comment that “It will start when I start it.”
This is a minor and trivial example of precisely the continual and seemingly reflexive demonizing of The Enemy that I so lament in today’s discourse.