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Off Without a Hitch: Lessons from the work of Christopher Hitchens

The passing of journalist and contrarian Christopher Hitchens has left a considerable void amongst those who value independent thought. What lessons can US citizens learn from this leading polemicist’s life?

Article written 12/20/2011 by Brian T. Murphy

This past week the world lost author, orator, agitator, and one of the most celebrated (and infamous) intellectuals of recent history, Christopher Hitchens, to cancer.  It is indeed eerie that he passed away just as the US removed its final troops from Iraq, a war to which Mr. Hitchens was a staunch supporter. In the final phase of a career laden with sponsorship for anti-war movements and humanitarian causes, he shocked his colleagues and supporters with his outspoken admiration for the Bush Administration’s decision to invade Iraq. But despite threats of immediate ostracism from the political left, his unapologetic support of the war highlighted qualities that embody a true American exemplar.   

Hitchens became a US citizen in 2007 and was the prototypical freethinking individual, which is by any account the foundation of a functioning democracy. In his four-decade tenure, Hitchens blasted God, Henry Kissinger, and Mother Teresa, supported the formation of a Palestinian state, spoke out against Ayn Rand’s “transcendently awful” capitalism, and teamed up with neo-conservatives to support the overthrow of an Iraqi dictator.  Equipped with his characteristic intrusiveness, Hitchens was never in danger of confining himself to the safety of consensus. Thus, reflecting on his death I can’t help but be saddened that our nation is caught in a two-party stalemate by politicians guilty of serving oversimplified catch phrases to a welcoming majority of voters unwilling to consider breaking from party lines to resolve conflict. Hitchens never suffered from this intellectual drought. He read, thought, decided, and argued. Vehemently. One can only hope that by re-adopting such habits we may expel blind allegiances and replace them with the sometimes bitter and unfulfilling fruits of independent thought.  

For those who sympathize, it will be rather unfortunate that this New Year will go off without a Hitch. 

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