Christopher Hitchens Dead at 62
Christopher Hitchens died yesterday and, in a special, rarified irony seemingly peculiar to or reserved by a (gasp) malicious Higher Intelligence for the high and mighty, he also died the same exact day we officially began the troop drawdown in Iraq.
In build and physiognomy if not ultra right wing, pro-national polemics, Hitchens looked remarkably similar to fellow Brit Roger Allam, the fine actor who played Lewis Prothero in V For Vendetta. But in the run-up to war with Iraq, Hitchens shocked many of his running buddies on the left side of the street to side with the Bush administration. To paraphrase Charles Pierce, it was if, like Dick Cheney, Hitchens completely lost his fucking mind after 9/11.
But, like Mitt Romney and so many other extremists of all stripes, Hitchens was cherry-picked and even reviled by the right after his death (Professional, dues-paying asshole Bill Bennett even went as far as to say that Hitchens would have a surprise waiting for him when he got to the Pearly Gates.). To Republicans and liberals alike, it's not enough for one to agree with another on one key issue: They have to be 100% like us.
Indeed, liberals like me could never quite reconcile Hitchens' cheerfully destructive tirades against organized religion because of those very same uncharacteristically ignorant cheerleading of his adopted country sending hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi children to their 72 virgins.
That left Hitchens in a No Man's Land populated only by the very few lone wolves who also occupy that lonely wilderness, seemingly comfortable in the alleged contradictions of being an atheist and a war drum-beater. No one could be said to understand Christopher Hitchens. As Miles Davis once famously said, "If you knew what I was talking about, you'd be me."
But whatever your ultimate views on Hitchens, you cannot deny the man's literary talent. His videos on Youtube are always treats regardless of your political, religious or ideological stripe. He never had to thunder and bluster his views like the fictional Prothero, never had to raise his voice and, even while he was eviscerating you for your ignorance, you felt as if you weren't boxed about the ears but had your ass wiped with silk. Vanity Fair's contributing editor was a pundit who was a jack of all topics, master of most, sort of a Dylan Thomas with a defined political sensibility.
His literary ability was so good and so obviously earmarked for posterity he could make Esquire scribe Charles Pierce and James Wolcott (the Andy Rooney of Vanity Fair) gnash their teeth into ground meal. He was, to quote a notorious Republican, a smart man's version of what a smart man sounds like.
And considering Hitchens' necessary intellectual limitations on Iraq and heaven, there's a chance St. Peter is waiting for him to get off that express elevator to the Pearly Gates. And, knowing Hitchens, even when confronted with evidence of his error in judgment in the person of St. Peter, I can perfectly imagine Hitch saying, "So you say, old man. But I still need identification."