Friday, December 16, 2011

"Rest in peace" seems like ill-wishing

Christopher Hitchens, dead in Houston, TX, the poor bastard.

You pretty much can't help reading about his death on the web today, but 3QD has a great battery of posts up.

Knock back some Johnnie Walker Black in his memory today. One could spend all day compiling quotes, but here's one from the NYT obit:
In 2007, when the interviewer Sean Hannity tried to make the case for an all-seeing God, Mr. Hitchens dismissed the idea with contempt. “It would be like living in North Korea,” he said.
... David Frum has some pleasant recollections.
At most parties, though, he was wit in a white suit. He’d enter the house and push past the offer of what he called the worst phrase in the English language: “White or Red?” He’d walk into the kitchen, to the small pantry where we keep our own stock of liquor, and help himself to a slug of Johnnie Walker Black, which I learned to think of as the whisky you drink when you’re drinking more than one. Soda, no ice.
(I do it the other way round; I shall give Hitchens' style a try.)
A friend of theirs once took Christopher Hitchens and his wife Carol Blue to dinner at Palm Beach’s Everglades Club, notorious for its exclusion of Jews.

“You will behave, won’t you?” Carol anxiously asked Christopher on the way into the club. No dice. When the headwaiter approached, Christopher demanded: “Do you have a kosher menu?”
... Glenn Greenwald dissents from the Hitchens celebration, in such a manner as to reaffirm my good opinion of Hitchens. For instance:
The blood on his hands — and on the hands of those who played an even greater, more direct role, in all of this totally unjustified killing of innocents — is supposed to be ignored because he was an accomplished member in good standing of our media and political class.
Uh, hello? Did the life and work of Christopher Hitchens do one damn thing to make the Iraq War more likely or more bloody?

And this:
One of the last political essays he wrote in his life, for Slate, celebrated the virtues of Endless War.
Following the link, one finds Hitchens (in Sept. 2011) objecting to the idea that a war can be objected to simply because it is "endless."
Human history seems to register many more years of conflict than of tranquillity. In one sense, then, it is fatuous to whine that war is endless. We do have certain permanent enemies--the totalitarian state; the nihilist/terrorist cell--with which "peace" is neither possible nor desirable. Acknowledging this, and preparing for it, might give us some advantages in a war that seems destined to last as long as civilization is willing to defend itself.
That does not seem obviously wrong, and it "celebrates" such war only inasmuch as it celebrates the defense of civilization.

What both those examples from Greenwald demonstrate is Hitchens's hatred of cant. Myself, I'm happy to have Greenwald around when he's fighting the good fight, and I welcomed Hitchens when he did the same - and even when he was fighting on the wrong side. Like Socrates and many less exalted debaters, he was a gadfly.


  1. I'm torn on my feelings towards Hitchens. On one hand, the guy was a complete ass, and seemingly went out of his way to make all atheists look the same (note the quote above).

    But at the same time, he could be incredibly eloquent in his defense of his beliefs, which I share. I believe it was even on this blog when he was originally diagnosed that we talked about how different people handle such things, and the strength of conviction on both sides.

    "Rest in peace" may not work, but "Goodbye" works well enough. Whatever your belief system, I have to respect someone who doesn't change that in the face of the fearful unknown.

  2. Actually, I think he was prepared to rest in more complete peace than any believer in an afterlife would expect, so why not go with it.