Friday, December 16, 2011

Christopher Hitchens 1949-2011

"Christopher Hitchens, finest orator of our time, fellow horseman, valiant fighter against all tyrants including God." Richard Dawkins

Christopher Hitchens finally succumbed to his brutal battle with cancer last night in Houston. The New York Times held the presses to make sure the story ran in today's edition.  They put the obit on the front page which is quite the honor for anyone particularly a writer.  His friends loved him dearly.  Those of us who read him loved him most of the time.  He was a great polemicist and so fun to read.  

His final crusade against God in the past four years was a welcome farewell and did mitigate some of the serious damage to his reputation he made in the early 2000s with his fanatical support for Bush's war in Iraq.  He finally had to leave The Nation where I encountered most of his writing for ideological reasons.   His appearances on the cable t.v. political shows were always must-see tv.   There weren't enough of them but it kept his rarity value up.  

His support for Bush's war and his savaging of its critics will not and should not be forgotten.  It was after all, the biggest issue that occurred  in the United States during his 30 years in America and he got it dead wrong.  It was a combination of hubris, loyalty and bad judgment.   I will be interested to see if his old estranged mentor Alexander Cockburn will have anything to say about Hitchens.  One of my favorite Hitchens moments occurred in 2005 in New York City when he faced British MP George Galloway in a bitter debate over Iraq.  But it was Galloway who got in the most Hitchens-like barb: 
"Mr. Hitchens bravely, fanatically you may say, stood against the idea of President George Bush invading Iraq in 1991. What you are — what you have witnessed since is something unique in natural history: the first ever metamorphosis from a butterfly back into a slug. And I mention slug purposefully, because the one thing a slug does leave behind it is a trail of slime."

In the meantime, God Is Not Great, one of his last books is highly recommended reading this holiday season and re-reading if you have read it already. 

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