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Joseph Sobran, RIP

Writing an obituary for Joseph Sobran is an intimidating task because he was so much more eloquent than I am. He had an incredible gift for phrases and aphorisms that were not only clever and pleasing to the ear, but were also very thoughtful. (If he were alive, he would have been capable of expressing that sentiment  more succinctly and clearly than I just did, but would have been too modest to actually do it.)

One of my favorite Sobranisms is "a bigot is someone who practices sociology without a license." Compare that to Rush Limbaugh's definition of a bigot: "someone who wins an argument with a liberal." I confess I get some enjoyment from Limbaugh's definition, but it's not very substantive. It says only a little more than "neener neener neener".

Sobran's  definition, on the other hand, challenges the logic of someone who calls  you a bigot. It asks "Why am I bad for making generalizations about people when a sociologist who does the same thing is not?" Someone might be able to explain that there's a difference, but in order to answer it they would have to think and explain. They would have to work.

Although Sobran was to the right of Jerry Falwell and Rush Limbaugh on a lot of issues, he was too independent to agree with movement conservatives on everything. He was an opponent of both Iraq Wars. One of his columns on this matter was also the source of one of my favorite Sobran quotes.

He recalled a conversation he had with another conservative who had also been opposed to the Iraq War. Troops had very recently been sent in, and Sobran's friend said "once the shooting starts, you have to root for the home team." Sobran's response was brilliant--"Excuse me, but isn't Iraq the home team?".

He was knowledgeable on many subjects besides politics. He was a Shakespeare scholar, and wrote a book  positing that his plays were actually written by Edward De Vere. He even knew some stuff about pop culture. According to this tribute at Accuracy In Academia, he was familiar with the post-Monkees music of Mike Nesmith. Not bad for a middle-aged paleoconservative.

Sobran's opinions on the Iraq wars and Shakespeare illustrate well what an independent thinker he was.  Sobran  was also an outspoken critic of Abraham Lincoln and the War Between The States. Ann Coulter was spot on when she said  "Joe was comically immune to group-think. Every Christian should be, but with Joe it was nearly pathological".

The last writer as iconoclastic, literate, and eloquent as Sobran was Albert Jay Nock, AKA the dude in my profile pic. Now they are both gone, and it will be a long time before anyone fills those old strange shoes.

Here are some other tributes to Joseph Sobran

Not Your Average Joe by Ann Coulter
Joe Sobran, RIP by Daniel Flynn
An Aussie Remembers Joe Sobran
Joseph Sobran, 1946-2010 by Robert Higgs
Joseph Sobran, RIP at National Review
The Passing Of Joseph Sobran
Beloved Utopian

I may write some more about him myself. There were things I left out of this entry because I didn't want it to get too long.