The first time my name and any writing of my own ever appeared in print was when I wrote a short letter to the editor in the early 1990’s defending Rush Limbaugh in the pages of the local newspaper in Western Pennsylvania. Already at that time, from my preteen years, I could recognize a spirit of hostility towards those who spoke things not according to the foolish spirit of the age. That is not to say that I felt myself to be a dittohead who merely parroted his opinion as was the case for some, but I have never felt a reason to repent of my essential sympathies with a man who saw much that was evil and foolish in the world and was not afraid to call it by name. And those names, as they often are, were colorful invective. And as a highly critical person myself, I have always appreciated having sharply defined terms to use in calling out what is evil and foolish in the world around us, and Rush Limbaugh was certainly very skilled in his characterization of much of what was wrong with the contemporary world.
Although I first became familiar with Limbaugh and his writing and thinking about thirty years ago or so at this point, this thinking is certainly highly relevant to our own times. His proper understanding that the world is not fragile is something that helps us to understand the periodic environmental panics that are spawned by our corrupt contemporary elites. When we see that people who have enough money to live where they choose deliberately choose places to live like Florida and Martha’s Vineyard that are endangered by the supposed threat of rising seas, all while they demand that unaccountable and unelected elites be given power to drastically harm the lives of ordinary people, we can understand that their desires for control are not connected to any genuine threat, because if the world was really in as much danger as they claim, their own behavior would be different. They would not live in houses that were ten thousand square feet with sky-high electric bills, or fly in private jets that pollute the world far greater than the cars of ordinary people whose lives they wish to control, or expend resources far to the advance of the ordinary Western taxpayer, who they claim to be profligate and wasteful and living an unsustainable lifestyle. This hypocrisy has always been ripe for criticism, and the lack of connection between the claims of the high priests of environmentalism and their very wasteful and hypocritical lifestyles is among the weakest points that exist in their call for drastic behavioral change for everyone else. Those who do not practice sustainability have no credibility to force it on others.
While I never knew Rush personally, I have been struck in reading the eulogies of many who did know him by the disconnect that existed between the essentially warm and friendly person that he was and the rather harsh and biting person he was assumed to be by virtue of his sharp-penned and sharp-tongued wit. This is a common problem, and one that I can relate to all too well personally. One of the handicaps that immensely witty and critical people have is the way that our criticism is taken far more harshly than it is meant. What is meant as a call for people to repent of their cant and hypocrisy and to come to grips with the wickedness of their ways is viewed as intolerable insults to their pride and dignity. It is clear that many people, including those who guest hosted his radio show and those who called in to express themselves to Rush and to others, viewed him as an essentially friendly person who opened up a forum to speak for those who felt constrained by the power of wickedness in high places and the lack of freedom that people felt when it came to speaking out against the wicked zeitgeist of our times. And if those pressures could be felt in the early 1990’s, they are even stronger pressures today. It is fortunate that Rush was able to get a strong following that was powerful enough to overcome the forces of canceling and silencing that have become increasingly intolerable in contemporary society.
Furthermore, in recent years there have even been great reasons to have sympathy and compassion for Rush Limbaugh in the face of his struggles against pain. As is the case with all human beings, he had his flaws and his foibles, and rather than making it impossible to respect him, they were a reminder that he struggled as all people do with the frailty of the flesh. To the extent that we struggle and we acknowledge our own struggles, we can have compassion on the struggles of others. Yet at the same time this compassion can often come with an edge, as there is not only a need to acknowledge our struggles but also to overcome. And in this world is too easy to wallow in our struggles and never gain mastery of what troubles us. This is not to say that such mastery over our behavior and attitudes is an easy thing or that any of us succeed all the time and in all areas of life or without great effort that often requires encouragement from others as well as divine assistance. Yet such mastery and such overcoming is what we are called to accomplish. Included in that mastery is an ability to see beyond the polite hypocrisies of the age, and if there is anything that Rush Limbaugh will be remembered for by the wider public that was familiar with, this spurring of people to overcome the hypocrisies of our age, especially those hypocrisies that could be found on the left, was something that he did well and for a long time. May his brave soul rest in peace, as he has struggled and prevailed.