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A Reflective Essay on the ‘Best of Enemies’ Documentary

‘Best of Enemies’ revolved around two highly intelligent yet complete polar opposites in ideologies William F. Buckley Jr., a conservative, and Gore Vidal, a liberal, as they battle out their wits during the Republican and Democratic Conventions of 1968. They genuinely despised each other, as evidenced by their debates, until both of them committed ad hominem when Vidal called Buckley a “crypto-Nazi” while Buckley fired back and called Vidal “queer” and threatened to sock him in the face. This is a prime example that no matter how intellectual a person is, he/she still has triggers as this encounter led to Buckley and Vidal’s lifelong clash.

In the documentary, the phrase ‘law and order’ was mentioned a lot of times especially by Buckley and Nixon. They used this phrase to impose peace in America but it was really just a euphemism for classifying people and sorting them out by their socioeconomic status, religion, and most prominently, race. Though these debates happened in 1968, history does repeat itself as this ostensible sorting out is not only making a comeback in the US but also in the Philippines as magnified by the current Duterte administration which is undoubtedly anti-poor. This current administration claims that their policies are to improve the overall welfare of the Filipino people but why is the economy the lowest it has been for years, inflation rate is at its highest, lumads are being dispersed from their own lands, most drug lords are acquitted in this ‘drug war’, and people like Mocha Uson are getting paid for being stupid. Clearly, this ‘law and order’ is NOT working out.

It is important to note that the Buckley – Vidal debates happened because ABC, being the least viewed channel at that time, needed to step up from NBC and CBS; and they actually did. From those debates, the pinnacle was when they called each other slurs (crypto-nazi, queer). It was the most popular because it showed that even though they were respected and civilized gentlemen, they had this violent side as evidenced by their eye-twitching and lip-quivering as these hurtful words were said to each other. The profanity from these political experts was entertaining to the people and so, ABC ratings were up. This can be a parallel to Philippine politics as to why Duterte has so many loyal followers even with his constant ad hominem, misogynistic tendencies, open threats to people, and his foul mouth. It is because the people find him entertaining and different from all the other presidents and we all know Filipinos love to be entertained by what they see on television.

The Buckley – Vidal clash started in the 1950s, peaked in the 1960s, and lasted in their lifetime. Though they had similarities in that they had posh upbringings, they showed and embodied the best of the political theory that they believed in, conservatism and liberalism. Their debates were brutal and that is something that is lacking with politics nowadays; there is just no heat and articulate representatives anymore as people pick who’s more entertaining to them (e.g. Trump, Duterte). Truly, Buckley and Vidal are the best of enemies and something that we need in this age, a clash of real intellectuals stimulating the mind and ideals of the people.

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