I'M NOT big on encomia--some of you may've already tumbled to that--but I think the recently deceased should, for the most part, be treated with decency or silence, unless the goddam procession takes longer than the worms do to do their work, à al Reagan. Just try to keep the poppy juice at reasonable levels. You don't need to black out to have a good time, kids.
So Hitchens, fine. A sharp and interesting mind, muscular prose. He lent his pen too often to a sadistic schoolmaster, who, increasingly as years went by, was slow to return it.
I confess, though, that I don't quite understand why the man received such praise in the snark dens of left blog comments; so he thought Nixon was a psychopath, and Kissinger a war criminal, and Reagan an idiot, and that Bojaxhiu woman a tiny religious sadist. So what else is new? If we lived in a sane world Brian Fucking Williams would spit after he mentioned any of 'em.
[Speaking of religious swindles, Douthat mounts his secular pulpit this Lord's Day to eulogize Hitchens as the Elect's Sort of Atheist, since the entire Christian world (except for a few ugly blog commenters, included not to echo Hitchens' own delight in the hypocrisy, but to underline how reasonable Douthat and all the other real Christians are, so long as the cost is negligible) apparently heard in Hitchens' public atheism a desperate cry for Conversion. Not like that awful Dawkins fellow. At least all Baptists and Papists, the Alpha and Omega of Douthat's personal religious vision, do. One is tempted, of course, to ask whether it isn't really the other way 'round, whether it's not just that Catholics who have come to grips with the 19th century appreciated Hitchens doing their dirty work as regards "Mother Teresa" and the rest of the embarrassing Jesus-on-a-Taco, Weeping Mary on a Hollow Tree bosh their own corrupt hierarchy won't do anything about. (Sorta like Douthat's relationship to the Republican party in that sense, innit?) As to why this sort of thing--speculation about the Eternal Destination of the author of The Missionary Position--is prime New York Times real estate in 2011 C.E., well, as always, you'd have to ask them.]
We were, of course, supposed to believe the same thing about the Neocons in 2001, even if their embrace of a still-breathing-and-swilling Hitchens was more reminiscent of the hug some do-gooder suburban housewife gives a reeking bum on a soupline while the news cameras roll.
Iraq was the clear line, crossed freely, for which Hitchens can never be forgiven.
The drumbeat to that war had three sorts of public supporters: American rightists and "centrists" who'd spent the previous thirty years trying to reinstate, incrementally, American military hegemony; Reagantots who didn't remember Vietnam, but had learned its lessons from postwar bullshit, every Tom, Dick, and Harry named Marshall, Drum, or Yglesias; and Christopher Hitchens.
It is, simply, outside the realm of possibilities that someone who understood exactly what America was up to in Southeast Asia from 1946-1975, or who saw the enormity of the what the Right got up to in Central America under Reagan, could have imagined the United States as the savior of Western Civilization in Mesopotamia or anywhere else. I kept reading Hitchens. I did. I kept waiting for the fever to break. Or at least for an argument that rose to the level of argument. It just got worse. That he supported the war in the transparently phony run-up was inexplicable; that he continued to do so after it had cost tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi lives was inexcusable.
I dunno. It's hard for me to imagine what happened to Hitchens and not think of other monumental ethical collapses of post-Reagan America. We can't trust sports records, we can't expect politicians to regard truth as truth, we can't keep shit out of our hamburger. And we couldn't keep a Euro-Trot from turning into a careerist teevee personality arguing monotheism with Ross Douthat. In some ways it seems the worst failure of all.