Originally posted on December 17, 2013
P.J. O’Rourke was one of my favorite writers growing up in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Every time he came out with a new book, had an article in Rolling Stone or Car and Driver, I eagerly absorb every syllable. He was an ex-sorta kinda hippie, turned libertarian with a conservative streak that always seemed to let the reader know he while he was earnest he did not take himself too seriously. His writing was funny, thought -provoking, entertaining, but rarely too heavy handed. I wore out my copy of Parliament of Whores. I have not read or heard of O’Rourke in quite a few years when he turned up in my podcast queue on Point of Inquiry.
With some trepidation, I listened to the interview on my drive into work. Trepidation since I was afraid my memories of O’Rourke would not match who he is today, and since my late teen and early twenties I am not exactly the same person either. Back then I was not religious but kind of thought I wanted to be, or at least should be religious. My political views were a bit more black and white if overall middle of the road.
Overall, O’Rourke did not disappoint. The interview guided by Josh Zepps was a laid back affair. Zepps more or less gave O’Rourke some open ended questions that O’Rourke ran with over the discussion. O’Rourke is more mellow than I recall from twenty years ago, and at least in this interview, he was slipping into a bit of telling old war stories. O’Rourke is Catholic, but like many Catholic not a hardline firebrand. He promotes individual freedom over the group, but thinks some Libertarians can get nutty. He thinks religion has its bad side, but has its good side. Yet, he recognizes a secular society can set up ethics without the need of a god. He makes excuses for religious excess without excusing religion . . . completely.
I am sure the crew from Reasonable Doubts could sit and chop up all the logical inconsistencies in O’Rourke interviews. I think there is a fair amount of cognitive dissonance with his views these days that I probably would not have picked up when I was twenty years old. O’Rourke at least in this setting was not thumping his chest that he was correct, and others wrong. Zepps did nudge a more secular counter point to O’Rourke when it came to some areas especially the genesis of much of the anti-gay marriage debate. Other topics touched upon were gun control and privacy issues. O'Rourke's views are ones that many folks in the secular movement would disagree with. O'Rourke's pitch and tone are such that getting mad at him would be out of place. O’Rourke and Zepp never got into a heated exchange, and overall the half hour discussion was a nice break from the sometime snarky discussion that often occurs with these topics. The one thing I recall from O'Rourke's writing in the past and something he discussed in this interview which has stuck with me is that people, individual to individual, tend to get along. People are the same pretty much everywhere; it's the situations that are different. It's group to group where things gets ugly. I tend to side with O'Rourke on this one.
Sure I have changed. O’Rourke apparently has toned down a bit. He's stayed kinda religious, and it never took with me. Still, it was still a nice visit with an old friend.