The year was 1968 and President Lyndon B. Johnson had recently delivered his State of the Union Address. Martin Luther King, Jr. had told Americans one day he wanted somebody to say he was “a drum major for peace... for righteousness.” One week before author and social critic Malcolm Muggeridge appeared on ‘Firing Line’ with Bill Buckely, in the Vietnam conflict, 543 Americans were killed in action, and 2,547 were wounded.
I was still a girl dreaming of escaping my mother’s authority and rules, intent on going to college to become a writer, making roughly 95 cents an hour working in a local dime store. I adored Buckley and found his mind eternally intriguing. I still do. At the time, in my spare time, I devoured books like a binge eater looking for late night doughnuts.
The video clip—I actually came across it as I was searching for something to go with my column tomorrow morning—brought memories back in a flood of snapshots ranging from bra burning to the poetry in the Simon and Garfunkel song “Mrs. Robinson.” In those days, poetry was a work of beauty—you could remember the lines. You can still do that with spoken word, one reason I prefer it to 99 percent of the poems in academic journals these days.
Muggeridge was quite a figure—former spy, investigative reporter, man of the world.
In that 1968 exchange with Buckley, Muggeridge said liberalism “is the great disease of our society.” You’ll have to watch it, though, to understand the differences of that day between the Left and liberalism, and to appreciate Muggeridge’s disdain for government authority, especially socialism. He had seen people in Ukraine starve—that tends to set the mind straight. He also thought the Roosevelts a disaster.
I suspect Muggeridge and Buckley would look at those of us writing about or participating in the U.S. government today and call us all hopeless fools.
In that time, one had to have an intellect to interview figures of the day on TV. That requirement is long gone.
(Commentary by Kay B. Day/May 9, 2012)