I realize that many people don’t like Christopher Hitchens. This may be for a variety of reasons; only a subset of which include his Atheism, his early foundations in leftist politics, or that he is critical of everyone from Bill Clinton to Mother Theresa. In my humble opinion, though, you can dislike him all you want, but Hitch was a brilliant thinker and an extraordinary writer. You may disagree with any number of his positions, but Hitch did the Hitch-version of speaking truth to power; and he did so admirably. Christopher Hitchens sums himself up by saying: “I’m a member of no party. I have no ideology. I’m a rationalist. I do what I can in the international struggle between science and reason and the barbarism, superstition, and stupidity that’s all around us.”
Yes… It is true that Christopher Hitchens battled not only Cancer but also cigarettes and a level of alcohol consumption that he, himself, once said “could stun a mule“. Those vices may well have been the instigator of his ultimate expiry. Yet, Hitch came to terms with his imminent death from Cancer with a level of emotional refinement and dignity that should serve as a model of graceful dying. He confronted death without loosing his style, sense of humor, or ability to face his detractors. I think Hitch under-rated himself when he once wrote, in Vanity Fair, that: “I sometimes wish I were suffering in a good cause, or risking my life for the good of others, instead of just being a gravely endangered patient.” I say that he under-rated himself because I think that his dedication to rational discourse has done much more than he admits, toward making us consider the intellectual viability of our beliefs. When it comes to medical issues, I could barely deal with a hernia operation with Hitch’s maturity. I will not soon forget the last time I heard him speak. Hitch was a good, honest, honorable, direct man and I will always respect that about him.
Hitch passed away Thursday, at age 62. He died from pneumonia brought on by his battle with esophageal cancer. He died among family and friends, at Houston’s M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.
Graydon Carter of Vanity Fair sums him up well: ‘Those who read him felt they knew him, and those who knew him were profoundly fortunate souls’. And, today, Salman Rushdie expressed his goodbye via Twitter with the words: “Goodbye, my beloved friend. A great voice falls silent. A great heart stops.”
Rest in Peace, Hitch!