A year ago today, I watched as many from the conservative movement in America came apart at the seams. If I had taken the time to describe it to my mother, I have no doubt she would have likened it to November 22, 1963, at least from the perspective that it would be a permanent personal historical moment for many people. That would be the beginning and end of any comparisons between Andrew Breitbart and John F. Kennedy, with the exception that both have been romanticized by their supporters. Before anyone gets angry at that statement, I am pointing out a very human reaction to death in general. Whether one was taught from childhood that “it’s inappropriate to speak ill of the dead” or not, the fact remains that people tend to selectively forget negative memories about someone that is gone. It is the human condition to cling to the good times.
But I was an outsider then, and remain one to this day. I did not know Andrew Breitbart, and had absolutely no contact with him. I was aware of his existence, obviously, but he resided in the periphery for me. Since then, I have become relatively close to several people that did know him well, and have spent a fair amount of time sifting through their thoughts and feelings about the man. Perhaps because I didn’t know him at all, I’ve approached this from a fairly objective point of view – not entirely so, if only because I have no desire to end up picking fights with others over details about a man that can’t comment on what really happened anyway.
The conclusion that I’ve come to is that there are essentially two camps among conservatives where Breitbart is concerned. There are those who knew much more than I do about him that respect him greatly, and then there are others that resent the idea that the man has been elevated so much by his followers. And as an outsider, I reside somewhere in the gray area between them.
However, one idea does resonate with me that is often repeated by those that profess that they knew Breitbart well. It has been repeated more times than I can count that he would talk to anyone, about anything, regardless of their opinion, or position in the political continuum. That is something I can understand, and is arguably the way I have lived most of my life – that is how I was raised to be by my grandfather, a man whose limited experience in politics included being a mentor to one man who remains seated on the floor of the Pennsylvania General Assembly to this day. That was the highlight of my grandfather’s involvement in politics, and in hindsight, I wonder sometimes if he wouldn’t have had a following like Breitbart if he’d become sincerely involved. I say that because he was the sort of man that everyone gravitated toward, because of his openness and acceptance of others.
I know many individuals that knew Breitbart, might be reading this, and are probably sitting there thinking, “Yes! That’s what Andrew was all about!” I wish I could know for certain one way or the other, but I’ll just have to take their word for it. It’s been a year since he died. The internet has been littered with “Apologize for what?” and “I am Breitbart.” For myself, I don’t proclaim either because as I’ve said, I didn’t know him – I am not arrogant enough to lay claim to something I haven’t the right to in the first place. I’ll just continue as I have, keeping a respectful distance from associating myself directly with Breitbart, and remaining an outsider. And I will continue to do as what I know my grandfather would want me to do – talk to anyone, respect others even when I don’t agree with them, and stand up for the rights of everyone to speak their minds – especially when I don’t agree with them.