THOLOS OF ATHENA

Friday, December 16, 2011

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS HAS DIED


"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.
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