On December 15th, I woke up to a text from the New York Times breaking news alert saying that Christopher Hitchens had passed away. He died from pneumonia after fighting esophageal cancer for over a year.
It’s hard to state how sad I was when I heard the news. It wasn’t a surprise. I found out he had cancer while reading his memoirs, Hitch 22, but it didn’t seem entirely real until I saw him on “60 Minutes”. He was bald and generally a shell of his former boisterous self.
Not that I actually “knew” Christopher, or Hitch as his friends called him. I suppose I too am a slave of celebrity culture—how many people die from Cancer each year? Well, a quick Google search says about 7.5 million people died in 2007. I’m sure many of them were hardworking honest people, not journalists who indulged in expensive liquors and smoked cigarettes.
I should probably be praying and mourning many of those 7.5 million people. But, regardless, I can’t get over how sad it was to loose Hitchens.
Christopher Hitchens was one of the doors to a vibrant world of intellectual debate. He was an atheists and something of a socialist who voted for George W. Bush and supported the Iraq War (I suppose that’s proof enough that the Iraq War was hardly a conservative venture). Not only that, Hitchens had a profound love of literature and was almost equally known for his erudite book reviews and lectures.
This latter point had a major influence on me. In college we read reams of print outs of literary scholars and professors who represented a rouges gallery of faddish academics. We studied all sorts of bizarre Marxists, feminists, deconstructionists, etc etc, but Hitch never jumped on the bandwagon.
He may have abandoned the proletariat in favor of lavish Oxford parties and Vanity Fair, but he never sold out and hocked modern literary fads.
Hitchens was a true defender of Western Civilization. He didn’t just argue for some vague polity; instead he actively defended some of our greatest works of art. Hitchens was one of the supreme defenders of “The Great Books” and Western Culture.
I discovered this back in 2004 when I happened across some of his Slate columns. He defended Western ideals in a way that many conservatives seemed reluctant to do.
So, I’m aware that my praise is probably more deserved for a teacher or a social worker, I owe a lot to Christopher. He was a part of my intellectual upbringing. I think, now years later, he was one of the main factors in helping me choose to go back to school.
For that, I salute you Hitch. Thank you.