Why P.J. O’Rourke is Right (Part 1 of 2)

P.J. O'Rourke as Uncle Same (from book jacket)I’m due to write a politically-oriented post, and I’d like to squeeze it in before the end of the month. Believe it or not, nothing in the current headlines inspires me to write — certainly nothing I could bang out in an evening or two –, which has been a problem for weeks, now. While I’ve got a few other things in the works, nothing is ready for prime-time. So, I’m gonna cheat.

I’ve been leafing through the book Don’t Vote: It Just Encourages the Bastards by political pundit & satirist P.J. O’Rourke. In a chapter titled “Why I’m Right”, O’Rourke traces the evolution of his political views — grew up in Republican home, took a hard Left turn in college, eventually did an about-face and became a card-carrying Republican (though he’s really more libertarian). I thought I’d share a few excerpts and, hopefully, a few chuckles:

“Some people arrive at their political convictions through experience, some through study, some through thought. My political convictions are a result of all three, or rather, the lack of them.

I was brought up in Republican circumstances, firmly grounded in convention. I was swept out to Marxist sea by a flood of sex. I was trying to impress cute beatnik girls. Then, one day, I found myself beached on the shore of jobs and responsibilities and I was a Republican again. No cognition, no cogitation, or will seems to have been involved in my ideological spin drift. As both a radical and a reactionary I was formed by history and institutions. All those beatnik girls had a history. Many of them ended up in institutions….

[My grandmother] was ten when she began accompanying her father to the Republcan Party’s political conventions in Chicago. She never got over the shock of that blowhard easterner Teddy Roosevelt splitting the party and allowing such a man as Woodrow Wilson — from a Confederate state! — to become chief executive. As far as my grandmother was concerned, Taft was the last real Republican. In a moment of childish innocence I once asked her what the difference was between Republicans and Democrats. She said, ‘Democrats rent.’

My father’s family was, if anything, more Republican…. [My Grandpa O’Rourke] had a heart attack just before the 1960 elections. At the funeral his sister, my great-aunt Helen, said, ‘It’s a good thing your grandfather died when he did. It would have killed him to see John Kennedy president.’

Thus my life would have gone along perfectly well, politically speaking, if it hadn’t been for girls. I found them interesting, They found me less so. On my first weekend at college I was walking down an alley with a bar on either side. Each bar had a patio full of students. The girls on one patio were very attractive, their sweaters well filled, their pleated skirts worn daringly above the knee, their blond hair styled in what was called a ‘sorority flip’. They sipped demurely from beer mugs decorated with Greek letters.

But I wasn’t athletic or handsome or a Sigma Chi legacy. And I had a feeling that, even if I were, getting such girls into bed would involve attendance at mixers and dances, romantic chat-ups, fumblings under coats in the shrubbery while house mothers tsked out windows, bestowals of one’s fraternity pin or even an engagement ring, and lots of talk about ‘our future’.

The girls on the other patio were fetching as well, in their black leotards and peasant blouses, denim skirts, and sandals. Their long, dark hair was ironed straight. They strummed guitars, smoked unfiltered cigarettes, and drank beer straight from the bottle. I thought, ‘I’ll bet those girls do it.’

They did. I went home at Christmas break with my hair grown long, wearing a blue jean jacket with a big red fist emblazoned on the back. My grandmother said, ‘Pat, I’m worried about you. Are you becoming a Democrat?’

‘Grandma!’ I said. ‘Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon are both fascist pigs! Of course I’m not a Democrat! I’m a communist!’

‘At least you’re not a Democrat,’ said Grandma.”

I don’t always agree with O’Rourke, but he can be entertaining.

More tomorrow…


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