In the summer of 2004, I became a Christopher Hitchens fan. I remember that day clearly, as I sat there reading on Slate, of all sites, a rebuttal to Michael Moore’s film “Fahrenheit 9/11”. The title of his column was “Unfairenheit 9/11 – The lies of Michael Moore”. As I did not know Hitchens at the time, I thought he had made an error in his spelling of fahrenheit within “unfairenheit” – but indeed, the first word I ever knowingly read of his was also my first encounter with his elevated wit.
There’s a special place in my heart for Mr. Hitchens. It is almost bewildering to me that this man, who contrasts with many of my beliefs and philosophies, and a man of whom I’ve never met, managed to leave such a gaping hole in my being when I heard of his passing. Still, few, if any political pundits have ever weighed on my heart, and I cannot think of any others for whom I have prayed. Hitchens has, and of Hitchens, I have.
Many of those whom I know that attend churches on Sundays find contempt for Hitchens and make no room to mourn the loss of such an opponent (or heathen), but I cannot stand with them. I appreciated the man too much, if not for his mind and work, for the challenges he presented to me. Nobody eulogizing Hitchens considers themselves in the same pedigree of intelligence as he, and neither do I. It wasn’t his intellect, however, that I appreciated as much as it was the self-reflected honesty this man constantly attempted to reverberate. If Christians, such as I, had the same self examination as Hitchens, the Church would have more repentance (or fewer members).
Reason was Hitchens’ creed and he was constantly testing himself against its standard. This is the reason he was able to be a leftist and effortlessly cross the battle lines and jump in the trench of the right. He didn’t actually belong to any political effort; he was betrothed to honest assessment and logic. He was adored and hated by both sides of the isle depending on the topic of the moment, and yet relentlessly fought over as a “belonging” of both sides which wished to claim him. Nobody stood above reproach in his admonishments (to include Mother Teresa, Gandhi, and MLK Jr)…which must have driven the left mad.
As I reread my words here, I also have the melodic cadence of Hitchens’ writings dancing in my head and the contrast is embarrassingly stark. He could turn foreign policy into a poem, a historical reference into a soliloquy, and one might be inclined to thank him for his disagreement. I would often times revisit an entire paragraph in an attempt to better understand it, and appreciate it the second time just as much as the first pass, although little more was understood. His use of words on paper weren’t improved by his urbane British accent – it degraded them with a surplus of charisma and perhaps robbed them of their true lure, substance.
I will miss him.
Filed under: Uncategorized