Christopher Buckley made me feel bad for his parents as I read this
article in the Washington Post. Not because he was unfair to them as if he was an outsider biographer--well, probably that too. It's just that I believe children should be more loyal to their parents, unless their parents were physically abusive, or were continually extremely verbally abusive. Children should be more willing to honor their parents than publicly humiliate them. As Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, a revered Jewish sage of the early to mid 20th Century said
:“My mother and my father, these are the people who represent the mystery of my existence. The less respect I bear for the mystery of my existence — regardless of the flaws my parents may or may not have — the less human I become. Because being human incorporates a number of qualities, or sensibilities, one of the most important of which is the sense of the mystery of my very existence. Without that I cease to be human … I would have to say that the most fundamental commandment by which we should live our lives is ‘honor your father and your mother.’”
In saying this, I must emphasize I am not a fan
of William F. Buckley, Jr. from a public policy perspective, and I thought him mean-spirited with his Red-baiting. He even had the whiff of racism in his elitism. Nor did I believe Buckley was as brilliant as most Americans assumed
he was simply because he often used obscure and obtuse words. It just seemed creepy reading such biting attacks from Buckley's own son, who was treated rather well overall by his Dad--outside of Bill B making a quick dash from his son's graduation ceremony from college. And maybe Chris' Mom had a right not to accept any further criticism from her son in her son's various letters...
Goe Vidal must be very happy to read the article, though perhaps he would agree with me that Christopher Buckley may have crossed a line with his parents that he of all people should have been left uncrossed. Certainly, Vidal rarely publicly criticized his father, Gene, and in fact was often reverent about his father. Yes, he was certainly tough on his mother, Nina, but Vidal kept most of his attack on his mother in fiction in a not-well-received novel, "A Season of Comfort."
In his first memoir, he gives her some due, but is mostly critical--though not in that glib, biting manner that Christopher Buckley developed with his comedic novels, which novels I have found unimpressive.
The relationships of fathers and sons remain an interesting sociological phenomenon for me. See here
for two of the previous editions.
I wish Christopher Buckley had left it to someone else to write such a book. That there is apparently worse information about his parents locked up in Yale University until after Christopher's inevitable death is even more creepy. I wish children would realize that when their parents become famous and economically wealthy, their children will mostly benefit from that fame and money, even as they lose lots of face time with those parents to the public. Tomorrow, for example, I'd love to be at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books
. But I won't be there. Why? Because I am taking my son to his Boy Scout camp early tomorrow morning, and later in the day, I'm helping my wife at our daughter's 11th birthday party.
I really wanted to meet Gore Vidal, who is speaking at the festival, and likely at The Nation booth--and maybe give him my business card to have lunch with him as he is really getting on in years. I was privileged to meet Vidal some years ago, and he once wrote me a very kind letter that was complimentary regarding my knowledge of American history. I also wanted to check out some publishers at the festival since my current publisher is not able to get my book out in soft cover so far this year as he thought he could. In short, I had my reasons for going to the book festival tomorrow. But like George Bailey
, I'm not getting out of Bedford Falls-again
. Still, my children won't likely write about me what Christopher Buckley wrote his folks, either. Am I right to do what I am doing? Was Bill Buckley right to do what he did to become famous and well regarded in the public eye? I think we all need to be a bit more honorable about our parents, no matter how nice we think we already are to them--or if they wronged us from time to time. Yes, I know that if a parent called you "ugly" even once, there is a deep and dark betrayal. But let's not rush to an extreme of dishonor against them unless their behavior reaches an extreme of physical or mental abuse.