By Calvin Palmer
Writer and journalist Christopher Hitchens died yesterday after his battle with oesophageal cancer. He was 62.
He was an inveterate smoker and drinker and no doubt the health fascists will claim he got what he deserved, a typical riposte from such intellectual pygmies.
Hitchens was a Brit who made it in America, which shows what a difference real talent makes. I would gladly settle for one tenth of Hitchens’ talent.
It was during BBC America’s election night coverage of the 2008 US presidential election that he won a place in my heart and mind when he described Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin as “an insult to democracy”. As so often throughout his life, Hitchens was bang on the money.
I hope his spectre will continue to haunt similar presidential candidates who hold a Disney-like view on life and are driven by a god that Hitchens refused to acknowledge. In his book God is Not Great, published in 2007, Hitchens argued that religion is “violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism and tribalism and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry”.
May the ghost of Hitchens ensure that the likes of Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and other tea party idiots never gain centre stage in US politics. Like Palin, they too are an insult to democracy.
Hitchens was criticized in some quarters for not remaining loyal to his early left-wing beliefs but surely it is the mark of an independent mind to attack both Left and Right when they are wrong, praise them when they get it right and not be beholden to either of them. Any free-thinking mind cannot to be tied down by isms in any way shape or form.
In his later years his maxim became “it is an absolute certainty that there are no certainties”, save the one that befalls everyone from CEOs of massive corporations to homeless people wandering city streets — death.
If there is such a thing as the after life, I would like to think that when Hitchens crossed over to the other side, he was greeted with a gin and tonic, offered a cigarette and then held forth in his inimitable and forthright style.
Hitchens lived life to the full and richly filled the lives of others.