December 19, 2011

Some thoughts on Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens undoubtedly died well, by which I mean that he faced his terminal illness with dignity, not falling into either one of the common twin traps that snare people who are told they have a serious terminal illness, that of maudlin sentimentality of the 'why me?' variety or fake bravado that he would defeat the cancer somehow when all before him had failed. He was above all, a writer, for whom the compulsion to pour words out was unstoppable. Not for him the idea that his last days should be spent in doing those things he had had no time for before. He was apparently working on an essay until the end, even when he was so weak that he could barely drag his IV drip with to the chair and would nod off periodically and could barely hit the keys. One has to admire that.

The only book I read of his was God is Not Great and my review was decidedly mixed. But there was no doubt that his debating skills in favor of the atheist cause were definitely something I welcomed. He had a quick wit, an easy facility with words, was widely read, and seemed to have a prodigious memory, all of which come in handy when engaged in the kinds of polemical battles he seemed to relish.

It must be said, however, that his other politics in the latter part of his life were atrocious. He seemed to have bought the entire neoconservative package, demonstrating an enthusiasm for wars against Muslim countries that was appalling. Critics claimed that he was a social climber, eager to move in elite American political and social circles and that his entry ticket to that world was to join in the jingoistic hysteria that followed the events of September 11, 2001. Recall that in those days, to decry the reaction to lash out at perceived enemies was seen as irrelevant and not serious at best and borderline treasonous at worst.

Since I am not of that world, I am in no position to judge if that charge is accurate, but I thought that this remembrance of him by Alexander Cockburn was worth linking to.


Trackback URL for this entry is: