Christopher Hitchens, 1949-2011

I have been meaning to remark on the string of anticipatory comments attached to Weapon Brown 279 about what will become of Chuck when this (final???) story arc wraps. But first, let me acknowledge the passing of an important figure in American politics and letters.

Christopher Hitchens, the hard-drinking, hard-charging polemicist, author and bon vivant whose career gained added illumination in the past few years for his pungent attacks on religion, died today of esophageal cancer (sadly, he was also hard-smoking).

It is for his bruising critique of religion and the religious that I became a fan of Hitchens, but I quickly gained respect for the wit and education he brought to all his topics of interest, and for being a true scrapper for the Left while being willing to give them a rap on the chin when they deserved it as well.

Hitchens was a transplant from England who became a US citizen some years back, often citing Thomas Jefferson’s wall of separation between Church and State as America’s seminal contribution to the world. In debates (of which he participated in scores after the publication of his book God is Not Great) his unrelenting, Oxford-educated wit dominated the stage, never sounding better than when up against reedy twerps like Dinesh D’Souza. Love him or hate him, the guy crushed.

Hitchens planted coffee in Castro’s Cuba and supported the war in Iraq. He prepared a jail cell in Hell for Henry Kissenger and another in the same block for Mother Teresa. He was a contrarian for all seasons. (I’m worried that he might not have liked that last line, but he wouldn’t give a fuck about what someone like Christopher Hitchens thought of his writing, so neither will I.)

From Hitchens I gained an appreciation for George Orwell that extended beyond his well known fiction, an aggressive and mellifluous role model for political apolagetics (in fantasy debates I conduct in my head I often assume his voice), and a reminder that brains go better with balls.

We need him still. I’ll miss him.