I’m only here to rip off P.J. O’Rourke. A feeble attempt to pirate his inimitable style is all anyone who follows politics to condemn it can offer. O’Rourke’s death made a day awful in a way I wish he were still around to chronicle. At least, he’d find a way to spur laughter about a rough update, as was his specialty. His personal involvement in the news makes losing him even more acute.
Happiness about words that remain brings insufficient but small comfort. We’re still stuck in the rather imperfect world whose ample faults he critiqued so deftly. His skepticism of power and everyone who holds it was matched by an unparalleled wit of which nobody was skeptical.
Composing a tribute to O’Rourke doesn’t just suck because of the provided chance. His death would’ve been quite untimely at any point filled with absurd events, which means every day. Getting through constant aggravations is the gift he bestowed upon anyone blessed to savor his work. Anything about him will seem inferior compared to what was by him.
O’Rourke’s greatest achievement was proving not everything in Rolling Stone was atrocious. His articles were so packed with gems that their presence felt suspicious. Why was there something both this entertaining and vaguely conservative sandwiched between conspiratorial pinko dreck? It was an editorial oversight to let amazing pieces get published.
Operating behind enemy lines amongst leftist loons made his work seem even more fearless. He hopefully convinced a few rockers who stumbled across treatises about the horrors of ceding autonomy that worshiping government stood in defiance of what insurgent music supposedly represents.
The lack of an agenda wins converts in a way preaching never does. Not taking sides despite supporting one of them typified the raw honesty innate to his work. A commenter beloved by conservatives was nonetheless the furthest thing from a partisan cheerleader. Describing things as he saw them is journalism’s basic job, which surprised many in the employment category. He supported ideas and not parties, much less wholly flawed office-seeking dolts who claim to endorse them. O’Rourke realized that Republicans suck slightly less.
If anything was sacred, it wasn’t once O’Rourke wrote about it. I hope he wouldn’t have been too embarrassed by how much he personally inspired legions of aspiring iconoclasts.
The rebelliously anarchic spirit appealed to dissatisfied high schoolers fortunate enough to discover his work during a formative time. One in particular comes to mind personally. I often found myself wanting to relive finding such focused subversion. As the sort of kid who’d grab a book off the shelf to read for a 101st time during extended homework breaks, I definitely played favorites. With a large personal library of treasured O’Rourke titles, at least I had a good excuse. I still feel like Republican Party Reptile was written personally for me.
My bibles are his incredible books where each sentence could serve as an unsparing summary of our irksome times. The aforementioned Republican Party Reptile sums it, and him, up. Parliament of Whores is justly lauded for his evisceration of our perfectly dumb government. Other personal favorites include Give War a Chance for documenting the ejection of trespasser Saddam Hussein and Holidays in Hell’s sightseeing through Earth’s most damned places. And All the Trouble in the World laid waste to easy liberal pieties that inflict tremendous hardships. Challenging ridiculous premises accepted as infallible doctrine isn’t just juvenile fun, although extending a middle finger to those ostensibly in charge is naturally gleeful.
Others took drugs. I took his words to heart. That includes vicarious accounts of him consuming the former. Realizing it was okay to question everything made me unabashed slobbering worshiper of his outlook. I used one of his quotes in my yearbook quarter-page, namely “Some people are worried about the difference between right and wrong. I’m worried about the difference between wrong and fun.” Any column could be filled with perfectly-crafted lines. His work ideally inspires others to create clever takes of their own instead of merely indulging in the understandable temptation to copy and paste his words. O’Rourke was tweeting before there was Twitter. And he didn’t detail his workouts, either, unless lifting glass and ice counts.
If only Nixon could go to China, only O’Rourke could ridicule self-important statists. His personal journey was funny enough that it could’ve been scripted. O’Rourke went from the prototypical ’60s shrieking campus commie to the favorite libertarian of conservatives and favorite conservative of libertarians. He actually ended up being more of a radical by defending liberty in an era where federal involvement is risibly presumed to be a necessary response to every single damn thing that ever happens.
It feels inadequate to write about a departed hero who wrote heroically. Enjoying the invaluable work he left us is the only option for those of us who only knew him for his words. The embodiment of irreverence is revered. I hope he enjoyed suck-ups telling him how much he inspired and reflected their outlook.
Innumerable bits of delightful contempt for tyranny can be directly traced to his emblematically sardonic takes. Those who admired him have long crudely parroted his phrasings which in turn let the next generation learn the joys of mocking those who loathe it most. You know someone’s influential when people don’t even know he influenced them. May P.J. O’Rourke’s legacy be far greater than inspiring countless lame imitators like me.