I’d like to bid my farewell to Christopher Hitchens, who died today.
I knew him only a bit, but I read him quite a lot, first in The Nation magazine and then in Vanity Fair and in his books, including his send-offs of Henry Kissinger and Mother Teresa. You couldn’t help but be dazzled by his clever writing and by the sheer breadth of his intelligence.
I’d met him a couple of times, first in his D.C. apartment in Adams Morgan over Tanqueray, with a book of Auden on the table with it. That was 20 years ago, and he was still a man of the left, though even then he loved to ridicule some of the affectations and pieties of our circle.
Even before his apostasy after 9/11, he was a believer in so-called humanitarian interventions, so his lurch to the right didn’t come as a terrible shock to me.
I met him again a couple of years into the Iraq War, this time in Madison. I got to interview him for Progressive Radio, and then I heard him give his acceptance speech as the Freethinker of the Year at the annual conference of the Freedom from Religion Foundation. He gave a hilarious acceptance speech, making fun of believers, which the crowd loved, but then at the end, he basically spat in the crowd’s face, daring members of the audience to argue with him on the merits of the Iraq War and the threat from what he called Islamic fascism.
It was classic Hitchens.
He was a bare-knuckled pugilist to the end.
And his atheism never failed him.
If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story "Free Speech Victory in Madison!"
Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter