Monday, August 16, 2010

James Who?

Trying to explain James J. Kilpatrick to a generation (i.e., anyone under 50) who couldn't tell him from a hot rock, I have an instinct that we may tend to remember him with more solemnity than he deserves.  My guess is that  he  was never as big a deal as he thought he was, never the sagacious defender of  forgotten glory.  For my money he was a historical accident--a quaint sort of caricature of conservatism who happened to stumble out of the cave at a time when we thought they were all dead, a downmarket imitation Russell Kirk* who thought he was uttering wisdom when he said things like "Eheu! It gives one pause!"  My guess is that he's the kind of guy who stocked his library from the Liberty Fund (perhaps the only person ever to buy the hardbacks), which he arranged elegantly behind his easy chair, the pages still uncut.**  The giveaway is that when they nailed him on Saturday Night Live ("Jane, you ignorant #$%@!" has to be one of the definitional one-liners of its time), I don't even think  he knew that he had been nailed.

I'm pretty sure Kilpatrick's picture of heaven involves harps and robes and golden stairs (and I am pretty sure, darkies with trays of juleps), but I think I will be wrong-footed when he hears St. Peter say "I don't see anything interesting on your resume..."  They may have mixed his file in with Jean Kirkpatrick, which would be a shame for Jean.
*Apologies to the shade of Kirk who was many things but not down-market.

**Guilty, your honor, I have some Liberty Fund.  But mine have underlining.

1 comment:

elrojo said...

read an ap obit on him and it neglected to point out his viciousness in the civil rights debates. his polemics would have stood up in klan and white citizen council tabloids as better than the best. i enjoyed his language columns, i'll give him that, but if you go back to his columns, editorials starting richmond, he made strom thurmond look like a gentle overseer.