To get the most out of a William F. Buckley speech, you needed a dictionary. To get the most out of a Rush Limbaugh broadcast, you needed a sense of humor.
God and Man at Yale, Mr. Buckley’s cri de coeur, was published in 1951, the year Rush Limbaugh was born. This critique of Mr. Buckley’s alma mater, Yale, for its hostility to religion and its indoctrination of students in values that opposed those of their homes, launched a new era in conservative politics. With his high-brow Bostonian accent, his impeccable appearance and his reasoned and well-thought-out arguments, as well as those of others to whom he gave a platform in his National Review magazine and on his celebrated PBS television show, Firing Line, William F. Buckley was the man needed for the moment. Listening to him opine and debate allowed honest, intelligent and curious seekers of truth to weigh up different views.
Only a few decades later, fewer and fewer Americans were interested in or able to follow complex, factual presentations. And fewer were being exposed to a wide range of views. The earlier criticisms against Yale were by now the equivalent of chiding your neighbor because his vicious pit bull wasn’t well-groomed. A new man with a new method was needed to give voice to traditional American ideals, and Rush Limbaugh stepped up. While I loved homeschooling and then working from home, one of the few drawbacks of minimal time in the car was not being able to listen to his show as often as I wished.
Like Mr. Buckley, Rush laid out arguments and ideas, but rather than presenting them in lofty, measured tones, he wrapped them in bravado and sometimes cutting humor. I winced at some of his barbs and personally found them in poor taste, but I acknowledged that those crude words and the attention and hatred they sparked exposed millions of people to ideas that were being suppressed in major newspapers and magazines. A friend once remarked after watching the Sunday morning TV talk shows that he despaired when a Republican politician showed up with boring charts and diagrams filled with incontrovertible facts while his Democrat counterpart showed up with misleading statements delivered with passion and zeal. As my husband often remarks, crusaders will usually defeat accountants. Rush Limbaugh was a crusader; a man on a mission. He was also a showman and marketer and recognized that those qualities were needed to get any sort of hearing with the public.
Like many others, I choked up when Rush received the Medal of Freedom during President Trump’s State of the Union speech in 2020. The hatred, vituperation, and hostility directed at him by the Left never dampened his love for America and the truth. Having never served in the American military, he was a bloodied soldier who served his nation. May his memory be blessed.
Yes, words do matter.
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