Joe Sobran died today. He had been such a quiet fixture in my life for about eighteen years that I was surprised. Of course, we all die, and Joe was up there in years. Yet I was surprised. And I grieve.
When I started coming of age, religiously speaking, Joe Sobran was there with his wisdom, his humor, his gentle touch, and his principles. It was the principles that got him into trouble. Joe got blacklisted from National Review after Buckley and Norman Podhoretz smeared him as an anti-Semite.
True, Joe didn’t like US policy on Israel, and he didn’t think Israel was a very good neighbor, much less a good ally. This is a common view, particularly outside the news media of our fair country. The confusion for me – at least back in the day – was that I admired Norman Podhoretz a great deal. I had read his memoir about his political and spiritual journey out of leftist politics around the time I was doing the same thing. Silly me, I didn’t think you could get farther right than Norman Podhoretz.
I was disabused of this notion fairly quickly, and I have Joe Sobran, among others, to thank for that. I still admire Norman but I don’t think he’d admire me anymore, our brief correspondence notwithstanding. I was earnestly trying to find out what the Truth was about many of the issues of our day, particularly social issues. Joe was an early touchstone, particularly his book “Single Issues”. With calm, quiet, and good humor he dissected things without being pushy, pedantic, or pompous.
I owe Joe a lot for that. I read him over the years, although he became harder to find after leaving National Review. For such a calm, funny guy, he sure made some powerful enemies. Joe didn’t speak to this much, other than occasionally giving his side of the story when he felt it necessary. I guess I figured Joe would always be there, cigar in mouth, grin on his face, fingers on the keyboards.
I’ll miss you Joe. When you get There, pray for us. Pray for me. May the God of the Near and the Far guide you swiftly to our true Home.