This is by Peggy Noonan. I need to take her words to my heart.
The conservative activist Andrew Breitbart, who died Thursday, was a piece of work—bombastic, sensitive, angry, deeply generous, full of laughter. Spirited, too, like some kind of crazy knight. He was a battler and a warrior and he was brave and he made mistakes.
He was a warm-blooded animal, not a cold one, and I suppose the thing that wounded him most was the thing that wounds everybody: He wanted to be understood. That's a lot to ask of the other humans, who are mostly trying to understand themselves.
So many conservatives are mourning his passing, at 43, because he was irreplaceable, a unique human soul. The other day in a seminar at a university, a student of political science asked a sort of complicated question that seemed to be about the predictability of human response to a given set of political stimuli. I answered that if you view people as souls, believe that we have souls within us, that they are us, then nothing political is fully predictable, because you never know what a soul will do, how a soul will respond, what truth it will apprehend and react to. I was thinking as I spoke of the headline when the Titanic went down: "1,400 Souls Lost." We used to see people in that larger dimension, which is not a romantic but a realistic one. The puniest person is big, and rich.
I had criticized Andrew last year in a column. A few weeks ago we bumped into each other at an airport, arranged to sit together on the plane, spoke our peace, hashed it through, and wound up laughing. He was endearing because he was exposed: If he felt it, he told you.
Afterward I thought again of something that has been on my mind the past five years or so. Longer, actually, but more so with time. In a way the argument between conservatives and progressives is that for the left, everything is about politics. Because they seek to harness government and the law in pursuit of what they see as just and desirable ends, everything becomes a political fight. Conservatives fought that narrow, constricted, soulless view of life: "We are not only political, we have other spheres, we are human beings."
But in their fight against liberalism and its demands, too many conservatives have unconsciously come to ape the left. They too became all politics all the time. Friendships were based on it, friendships were lost over it. "You agree with me? You're in. You don't? You're out." They became as good at ousting, excluding and anathematizing as Mensheviks and Bolsheviks, as Jacobins. As self-righteous, too, and as adept at dehumanizing the enemy.
It is not progress when you become what you hate, when you take on its sickest aspect.
Andrew and I talked about this that day on the plane. I agreed with his passion: We're in a big struggle, we have to fight. His argument was in a way like Flannery O'Connor's: You have to push back hard against the age that is pushing you. But he agreed too that politics can leave you twisted and deformed inside, that fighting those who would impose their will can leave you as consumed as they are. You have to be careful and not let political struggles take over your life, your affections—your soul.
We were not built to be all about politics. Empires rise and fall, nations come and go, but the man who poured your coffee this morning is eternal, because his soul is eternal. That's C.S. Lewis. I don't know if Andrew was a religious person or a believer, but I know he respected faith, understood it, felt protective of it. For which good on you, Andrew, and thanks. Rest in peace.