Thanks, Rush — and Eternal “Dittos”

Conservative icon, radio broadcasting legend, and politics-as-entertainment pioneer Rush Limbaugh died on Wednesday of this week, as I’m sure you know. And by now, just about everything that can be said about his career and politics and impact and personal affairs has already been said, many times over.

So I’m not going to try to summarize Limbaugh’s life, death, or legacy in some new or unique way for you. Nor will I attempt to add anything to your knowledge of the man, influence your opinion of him, or put into any kind of context what he meant to this nation. You’ve already got an opinion about that, I’m sure.

I’m just going to tell you what Rush Limbaugh meant to me — even if it gets me canceled, trolled, harassed, threatened, or attacked…

Because I owe him that much, and more. Now let me tell you why.

Rush Limbaugh made me love and understand the America I was taking for granted

Through much of the 90s, I worked as a delivery driver for a sub-and-grub shop in my hometown. One of my favorite shifts was the weekday lunch trade. On a good day, I could net $75 or more during this five-hour period. Back then, that was solid money, and it bought me a lot of books, beer, and bullets.

Being young, I always had the radio blasting whenever I was out on delivery. Shock-jocks and rock-and-roll. I had no interest in talk whatsoever, and not much interest in politics, for that matter. And AM stations — are you freakin’ kidding me? I didn’t put a shoebox-sized amp and four giant speakers in my truck to listen to people yak.

But by the spring of 1992, when I was 23, one of my co-workers had started talking more and more about politics during downtimes at work. We all wondered where this was coming from all of a sudden. He kept mentioning this guy on the radio with a crazy-sounding name — Rush (not Russ) something…

So once upon a lunch shift, when I got tired of Nirvana on the FM rotation, I punched the AM button, found Limbaugh, and was instantly hooked.

It’s not that I agreed with everything he said, because I didn’t. Never have.

And it wasn’t as though I was part of the silent masses who’d finally found a “beacon of truth” who said out loud what they were thinking — that’s a comment I’ve heard in a number of retrospectives the last few days. No, I recognized pretty much from the beginning that Rush was chiefly what he claimed to be: An entertainer…

But to be able to make politics entertaining to a guy like ME — not to mention relevant, exciting, thought-provoking, and funny? That was mind-blowing, and I couldn’t get enough of it. There was something else that instantly appealed to me about Limbaugh, too: He was deeply proud of America, believed in it, and knew how unique it really was.

During the Reagan years, when our nation’s pendulum of patriotism swung back toward the “love” end of the scale after the tumultuous 60s and ambivalent 70s, I was too young (or shallow) to really feel that love in anything more than a simplistic, fireworks-on-the-Fourth-of-July sort of way.

But when I heard Rush Limbaugh echoing and quoting “Ronaldus Magnus” — and at various other times during his monologues, too — that patriotic love rose up inside me, and filled me with pride. In those moments, I started to truly understand what America was, and what it was supposed to be…

Somehow, listening to The Rush Limbaugh Show as I raced around delivering lunch to all those hard-working people in dogged pursuit of their dreams made me certain that no matter what else it was — or would ever become in the future — America really was special.

It also made me realize how fragile the core ideas that drive America’s greatness really are, too. They’re under constant assault, from within and without. To survive, they need nurturing, protection, and vigilance.

Maybe it was inevitable that I’d have had an epiphany like this at around that age, even without Rush’s help. But I can’t be sure of that. So I credit and thank him for it.

Rush Limbaugh showed me what the media really was — and where it was headed

Starting in about 10th grade, I’d dreamed of being a journalist. I showed the talent and aptitude for it, even back then. But I had a bit of a rough time in high school, for reasons I won’t go into here — so I took a five-year break after graduation to move out, clear my head, and live a little…

I’d just enrolled in a local community college full-time to start taking my shot at this dream when I discovered Rush Limbaugh. And in truth, I found his constant attacks on the media shocking and off-putting at first. Because I didn’t want to believe that the papers, shows, and news magazines I’d wanted so badly to write for were nothing but a bunch of shameless shills for the Democratic party.

I wanted them to be the paragons of truth and objectivity they portrayed themselves to be, and how they seemed to be in movies like All the President’s Men. Yes, I was naïve in the extreme back then. But I didn’t stay that way for long, thanks to Rush.

Soon after my first semester of day classes began, I joined the college paper and started cranking out stories. But even at that low level of publishing, the rank partisanship that Limbaugh insisted had taken over the American media in the post-Reagan era (there was no “mainstream” distinction back then) was on full display.

True story: In my first conversation with that paper’s Editor-in-Chief, he flat-out told me any content that looked poorly on then-president George H.W. Bush would be welcomed. For a while, I played along. But by the following fall, I was the paper’s top contributor, by far. That gave me the clout to start a right-leaning political column.

Instantly, the daggers came out for me. I was accused of racism by a prominent student organization for accurately reporting the facts of a crime. I was grilled by the campus radio station, too. A sitting professor started up his own column under a pseudonym, intended as a foil to mine, I was told. And oh, how the hate mail rolled in, too. Of course, I reveled in all of it…

But it proved to me, first-hand, what Rush Limbaugh had continually insisted was true about the media — what I hadn’t wanted to believe about it. And the rest of my college experience did nothing but reinforce this truth. The objectivity and fair-mindedness I’d imagined finding in media and higher education circles proved to be almost nonexistent in either sphere.

And look at those institutions today. Both the establishment mass media and major academia are, by and large, nothing more than breeding grounds for leftist thought and incubators for America-hating activists. They’re so woke and PC, they literally can’t tell the truth about anything any more.

Rush saw all of this coming 30 years ago. And in large part, his warnings helped to save me from a career choice that might’ve caused me years of heartache and stress, with little success. I wouldn’t have lasted long in the media environment of that time, before the rise of more centrist or right-leaning sources. And there’s no way I could survive in a mainstream newsroom today…

So again, I owe him my thanks.

Rush Limbaugh kicked off my REAL political education

It’s amazing, in hindsight, how ignorant I was in my early 20s about the differences between America’s two major political parties — even as I boldly struck out in pursuit of my dream to become a journalist. Such is youth, though, huh?

But Rush Limbaugh brought me up to speed on those differences, albeit from a far-right perspective. Not just the parties, but the liberal and conservative ideologies themselves. He also gave me a crash course in government policy and process.

Say what you will about Rush’s early shows being bombastic and outrageous. They absolutely were — he was like a political shock jock (and it was great, so funny). But they were also loaded with facts, statistics, and details about the laws, agendas, initiatives, procedures, and inner workings of our federal government.

The thirst for greater knowledge of all these things ultimately led me to major in political science. That degree hangs on my wall right now, eight feet from where I’m writing these words. Now don’t get me wrong — I’m glad I got that degree. I learned a whole lot of very useful and interesting things in college.

But I can honestly say that I learned more about how Washington really works from The Rush Limbaugh Show than I did in my political science courses. That’s because the way our government actually operates has virtually nothing to do with right and wrong, deep and abiding truths, or the good of the people, like they tell you in class.

It’s actually all about personal gain, partisan gamesmanship, and payoffs to the special interests that ensure the ruling party remains in power. That’s it.

No one has ever summarized this better than the great Ambrose Bierce, my personal hero, in his immortal Devil’s Dictionary. In it, he defines “politics” like this:

Politics, n.  A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.

Never have truer words been written about the nature of American government. And the simple fact is that I wouldn’t have come to this understanding — or at least not as fully, or as early — without Rush Limbaugh.

I also probably wouldn’t have discovered Bierce, Mencken, Paglia, or any of the other great thinkers and writers I now admire without Limbaugh having spurred me to think for myself, challenge the orthodoxy, and refuse to swallow what the media, academia, and the political establishment were trying to force-feed me.

Rush lit the fuse on all of that, and I thank him for it.

Bottom line: You wouldn’t be reading these words right now if it weren’t for Rush Limbaugh

Again, I’m not a Limbaugh clone, and I never have been. Truth be told, I haven’t been a regular listener of his show in many years — and never really considered myself a true “dittohead.” The irony in this is pretty thick, since it was Rush’s influence that triggered me to be a fiercely independent thinker. Independent, even, from him.

Trust me, back when I used to listen a lot, I spent plenty of time screaming at the radio in outrage — when I wasn’t cheering at well-made points and laughing my ass off at some of his totally un-PC bits, gags, and mimicry (he used to be pretty good at impressions). And anyone who’s been a steady reader of mine knows that Rush and I were not always simpatico when it came to Trump…

But how faithfully I listened to Rush, or whether I agreed with him or not — and to what extent, and on what issues — isn’t relevant to my goal with this piece. My point with this article is to acknowledge the man’s profound effect on the path of my life.

Were it not for Rush Limbaugh’s impact on my early adulthood, I’d never have become as engaged and aware of the American scene and system as I am now. The truth is, before I started listening to him, I hadn’t even voted.

But Rush Limbaugh was passionate about America. He was awake. He knew what he believed — and knew with absolute certainty that it was right. And love him or hate him, he spent every day of his life fighting for and defending those beliefs…

This, in itself, is rare and admirable. I just wish all the hateful liberals who’ve been dancing on his grave understood that. A dignified, righteous warrior acknowledges the courage and qualities of his or her fallen enemy.

On the other hand, I think maybe the final victory is Limbaugh’s. For even in his death, he exposed liberal hypocrisy, bias, and hatred. It’s right there for all to see in the tweets, hit pieces, and final, snarky swipes of so many left-wing journalists, celebrities, influencers, and politicians.

For me, the bottom line is this…

Rush Limbaugh made me passionate enough about America, its people, and its future to figure out what the hell I actually believed — and to start fighting for those beliefs in the most effective ways I can.

For 29 years now, that has meant voting (and sometimes not voting), talking with and persuading family, friends and acquaintances, and writing things like this.

So thanks, Rush, for making me into a patriot doing his part. May you rest in peace.

Gratefully Yours,

Jim Amrhein

Jim Amrhein
Freedoms Editor, Whiskey & Gunpowder

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