"The evil men do lives after them; the good is oft
interred with their bones." --Julius Caesar
Hitchens could, even near the end of his life, write an
essay about Lincoln, that did not bear any of the affectation of his public
performances. After 9/11 he went nuts and lost his bearings, in a kind of
anti-fundamentalist fundamentalism; but in his time he spoke with some
eloquence and wit against Reagan and all his works, against the murderous reign
of the death squads, against Kissinger. This does not mitigate the sense of
loss about his deterioration in the public square; yet it seems to me that he
was once a comrade against authoritarian madness, and fought against injustice
in his own fashion. How Hitchens fell into justifying the Iraq War and the
Islamophobic worldview, is perhaps explained in terms of a nervous breakdown. I
don't know; but it seems such an incomprehensible departure from what once issued as
reason from him.
What has been said about his vanity and ego is probably
true, along with the dogfight-like debates, which were by no means the best of
him. I remember reading his essays many years ago, and thinking that he was a
good man to have in our corner.
His personal friend, Robert Scheer, writes of Christopher Hitchens:
Despite the vehemence of our debates, both public
and personal, he and his saving grace and wife, Carol Blue, held a gathering at
their home to discuss a book I wrote on the subject. This was a man unafraid of
intellectual challenge and committed to pursuing the heart of the matter.
That was his driving force, a seeker of truth to the end,
and a deservedly legendary witness against the hypocrisy of the
ever-sanctimonious establishment. What zeal this man had to eviscerate the
conceits of the powerful, whether their authority derived from wealth, the
state or a claim to the ear of the divine.
Hitch was the opposite of the opportunistic pundits who
competed with him for public space. He took immense risks, not the least in
offering himself for waterboarding before concluding it was unmistakably
torture, or challenging the greatness of God, knowing full well that he was
exposing himself as an object of wildly irrational hate.
To watch the kind of dissipation Hitchens went through is
painful, with his former self blurring in the process. There was too much drinking, too much
grandstanding, too much desire to play the enfant terrible of the Left. Who can occupy such a personal space of ego while our history
every day grows sicker? But it is my instinct to feel sad for him, for the fall
any human being may suffer, to remember his acts of personal courage, and his
talent which once counted for something.