One of the late atheist thinker Christopher Hitchens’ sworn enemies, the British proto-socialist George Galloway, comes off like a “neener-neener”-yelling eight-year-old in his remembrance of sorts, in part because of this opening:
I hope that the deceased, unbelieving English man of letters Christopher Hitchens has discovered that God is not only great but merciful too.
That’s essentially the same passive-aggressive attack-masquerading-as-piety that was tweeted and facebooked by all manner of Christian guffawers, including evangelicals like Rick Warren and Cal Thomas. They prodded the corpse with a stick while attempting to suppress that dirty little pang of pleasure … and almost refrained from thumbing their noses at the remains. Real classy, gents.
I’m pretty sure Hitchens would have had no compunction about dishing it out if Galloway had kicked the bucket instead of the other way around, so that’s not my beef with that
cretinous oaf fine contributor to Iran’s Press TV. Instead, it is that Galloway, as he is wont to do, plays fast and loose with the facts. The excellent UK group blog Harry’s Place deserves praise for fisking Galloway’s latest prose and putting the man in his place, but it can’t do so as masterfully as Hitchens would’ve likely acquitted himself of the task. Hitch is a tough act to follow.
In their 2005 Manhattan matchup, which Galloway clearly regards as a highlight of his life (one he is still flogging, to try to make money off a pending DVD version) Hitchens easily maintained the upper hand, calling nothing to mind so much as the old quip “It’s not right to engage in a battle of wits with an unarmed man.”
Anyway, a final word on Hitchens’ passing. Predictably enough, and not without justification, many people on the left, and libertarians too, brought up his defense of the war in Iraq. Some said they’d never forgive him. But if ever there was a time for forgiveness, Hitchens’ premature death of esophageal cancer was it. Truth be told, I couldn’t brook Hitchens’ reasoning on the matter either (I marched in New York City in February 2003 against the invasion of Iraq), though I followed him all too well on the dangers of fundamentalist Islam. But even when I thought him wrong, I admired Hitchens for shaping his own ideology, being his own man, hacking his own path — consequences be damned.
“Suspect your own motives, and all excuses.” Hitchens didn’t just write that; he lived it. He never was part of a côterie he wasn’t fully prepared to walk away from if that’s what his intellect told him was prudent or necessary. That’s a very rare attitude because it takes tremendous guts.
Another Hitchens quote (it’s been one of my cherished guidelines since I first came across it, some ten years ago): “Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence.”
Silence, and the grave, have imposed themselves on the man once and for all, and what a strange sensation it is after a lifetime of beautiful, fearless, erudite roars.
Thank you, Hitch.
Rogier is a Dutch-born, New-England-dwelling multi-media maven (OK, a writer and photographer) whose dead-tree publishing credits include the New York Times, Wired, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Reason.