Richard Viguerie made a big mistake by placing my name on the right-wing mailing list. His national direct-mail operation has undoubtedly filled the hearts of millions of conservatives with renascent hope, while filling their mailboxes with gun-lobby tracts and Laffer curves. But punching me into his Model 370 was largely a wasted effort, although Viguerie is not solely to blame. Mostly, in fact, it was my mother-in-law's fault. She wants another grandchild. It's a long story, but I'll try to keep it short.
In the beginning, my wife's mother was content with dropping broad, supposedly humorous hints. Having Sears deliver that baby crib for our last anniversary and then turning our names over to some really aggressive diaperservice people is an extreme example, I'll admit; but it is one that springs immediately to mind.
After years of our steadfastly refusing to get her drift, however, she decided we might be persuaded by something we read in a magazine or a newspaper. Nor was this particularly unusual for her. People react to being ignored in various ways: My mother-in-law reaches for subscription blanks.
She bought us a three-year subscription to the Wanderer, a Catholic weekly that, belying its somewhat blithesome name, holds to a fiercely narrow path of orthodoxy -- particularly in the areas of marriage and family planning.
At first, we hardly noticed the pattern. The Wanderer began arriving, and then... slowly at first... the other mail: National Review introductory offers, appeals on behalf of Rhodesian free trade, pamphlets against the Equal Rights Amendment. In a matter of weeks, this third-class trickle became a junk-mail torrent -- Liberty Lobby handouts, ex-FBI Agents' Legal Defense Fund pledge cards, U.N. withdrawal petitions. Hardly a week went by that we didn't hear from William Buckley Jr. As for our mail during the Panama Canal debate, I don't even want to talk about it.
Surprisingly, the arrival of all these letters didn't bother me, at least not in the beginning. For years, after all, I had been receiving requests from various liberal causes, a circumstance I quietly connected to a modest contribution I'd once made to the Congress for Racial Equality. So, initially, all of this new, conservative mail even provided a welcome type of balance. On certain days, in fact, it almost seemed as if some mysterious equal-time mechanism might be at work inside my mailbox. I'd get something from the Americans for Democratic Action and, in the same delivery, something from the American Conservative Union. Promotional literature for the book "Horrors of a Homosexual America" might arrive just a few days ahead of an appeal from the Gay Activist Alliance. Even our electric bill -- the one with that tiny, self-serving newsletter from the power company -- would reach us the same week as a Sierra Club broadside on nuclear power plants.
Not that I actually read any of those letters. I opened them mostly to dispel an uncommonly clear vision I would otherwise have -- that of our garbage man pounding on the back door one morning, citrus pulp, coffee grounds and an aluminum poptop clinging to the unopened envelopes in his hand.
But if I never really studied any of this material closely, I at least came to pride myself on the wide spectrum of political mail I casually junked. And that's part of the problem. Ever since Proposition 13 and the Bakke decision, I no longer know what I'm throwing out. With the New Synthesis in full bloom, most of my unsolicited mail is of the lowered expectations/lower taxes genre, and it is impossible to distinguish a neo-conservative new politics independent from an ordinary former liberal. Gone forever, I'm afraid, are those halcyon early days when CORE was unashamedly turning over my mailing address to the editors of The New Republic.
Well, none of this will matter in a few days. I certainly hadn't planned for it to end this way, but the important point is this: Soon it will all be over. All the mass-mailing wizards will no longer have my envelopes to lick around anymore. So, farewell to the lot of them, my importuning pen pals, those fiscal conservative crypto-liberal synthetics, those Bakkes, bimetalists, bikers, busers and Buckleys. Let me tell them here, so they won't have to pick it up from a stranger from the postal service. We're moving. As in No Forwarding Address. We have to; we need a bigger place.
What with the new baby coming and all.