Two days ago, the great public intellectual Christopher Hitchens passed away from pneumonia, after battling esophageal cancer for close to eighteen months. Many glowing obituaries have since been written about his intelligence, extraordinary productivity as a writer, and his oratory and debating skills. I shall not address these points here although I fully concur with all of the accolades that have been bestowed on Mr. Hitchens.
Rather, I'd like to honor his courageous willingness to combat the stifling Western zeitgeist of political correctness. Mr. Hitchens did not mince words. He did not couch his positions in niceties. He took positions and defended them vigorously. He was an equal opportunity critic of many otherwise "taboo" topics perhaps none more famously than his acerbic criticism of religion (he is known as one of the four horsemen of atheism along with Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Richard Dawkins). He was one of the most vociferous critics of the death fatwa placed on Salmon Rushdie's head by the late Ayatollah Khomeini (for having authored The Satanic Verses). He did not care about towing the Leftist and so-called progressive line vis-à-vis the Iraq War even though it made him a pariah with many of his long-standing friends and colleagues. He was unconcerned with the likely charges of anti-semitism that would befall him once he chose to criticize some of Israel's treatment of the Palestinian people. He wrote a scathing biography of Mother Theresa and publicly suggested that the Pope should be brought to justice for his handling of the rampant pedophilia within the Catholic priesthood. Finally, he took the task all those who argued that Islam was a religion of peace. The bottom line is that he did not care who he offended. His only concern was to tackle issues in an honest and frontal manner without being in the least bit encumbered by political correctness. For this alone, he is a hero of inestimable worth. If more intellectuals and politicians were to speak with the same resolve and honesty, the world would be a much better place.
Although I have never had the honor of meeting Mr. Hitchens, I feel as though I knew him. I'd like to think that had we known one another, we would have been friends. Rest in peace Mr. Hitchens. Your memes shall live on forever.