September 25, 2009

'A Great Good Man'

Irving Kristol, who died one week ago at the age of 89, was undoubtedly one of the most important American political thinkers of the second half of the twentieth century. Yet, for me, as well as for most of my fellow countrymen who have been following American politics for years and happened to follow a similar political path—from liberal to (neo-)conservative, to tell it in a few words—he was far more than that: he was a major point of reference, a guiding star. I have read many of his writings and watched some of his interviews on TV. Of course I have learned a lot from him, and then again, I must say that most of all I have admired his moral and intellectual personality. That’s why, amongst all the tributes paid to him after his death, the one that I love most is this piece by Charles Krauthammer :

The wonder of Irving was that he combined this lack of sentimentality with a genuine generosity of spirit. He was a deeply good man who disdained shows of goodness, deflecting expressions of gratitude or admiration with a disarming charm and an irresistible smile. That's because he possessed what might be called a moral humility. For Irving, doing good -- witness the posthumous flood of grateful e-mails, letters and other testimonies from often young and uncelebrated beneficiaries of that goodness -- was as natural and unremarkable as breathing.
Kristol's biography has been rehearsed in a hundred places. He was one of the great public intellectuals of our time, father of a movement, founder of magazines, nurturer of two generations of thinkers -- seeding our intellectual and political life for well over half a century.
Having had the undeserved good fortune of knowing him during his 21-year sojourn in Washington, I can testify to something lesser known: his extraordinary equanimity. His temperament was marked by a total lack of rancor. Angst, bitterness and anguish were alien to him. That, of course, made him unusual among the fraternity of conservatives because we believe that the world is going to hell in a handbasket. That makes us cranky. But not Irving. Never Irving. He retained steadiness, serenity and grace that expressed themselves in a courtliness couched in a calm quiet humor.

1 comment:

  1. Well done. Also a profound influence on me as I gained and matured in political/economic knowledge. He helped many of us grow up intellectually at the same time showing us extraordinary humanity.