Christopher Hitchens has died. He will probably be remembered for two things: as a Man of the Left, he broke with other liberals and supported (to use the euphemism) the War on Terror and he was an annoyingly preachy, intolerant, and adolescent atheist. Yet, he was so much more than that, including an exceptional literary critic and principled liberal who stood with the victims of oppression everywhere. He wasn’t like most on the Right and the Left who only care the victims of the regimes on “The Other Side.” All that said, I could not usually be bothered to read his columns because I couldn’t get past my early impression of him as an iconoclast and contrarian — he was going to take a divergent view because he relished tweaking people, including his ostensible allies. There are not many people who have it out for both Mother Teresa and Henry Kissinger.
Rick McGinnis wrote about Hitchens, and his brother Peter, last year, reviewing a pair of books that came out at the time by the two. McGinnis said:
“I have sometimes noticed in other people that a clear-eyed sense of impending extinction can have a paradoxically liberating effect, as in: at least I don’t have to do thatanymore.” This is the elder Hitchens, reflecting on his onetime friend, the late Edward Said, who finally resigned from the Palestine National Council upon the diagnosis of his ultimately terminal illness, a move Hitchens thought long overdue. There are many who wish that, with his own mortality in play, Christopher Hitchens would be moved to discard his own belligerent atheism, which alone among his rhetorical skirmishes reveals a peevishness and intolerance that he lethally coaxes out of opponents in other battles.
As Kathy Shaidle said this morning, “Some of us were betting he’d turn Catholic before he died, perhaps just to be annoying. I assume we were wrong. Not that I blame him, but it would have been fun for the rest of us, for a minute or two.” As Daniel Foster’s comments in The Corner: “I’m sure I join many in hoping he is in for a glorious, glorious surprise.”
Here are a pair of YouTube videos of Hitchens on abortion in which he speaks eloquently about “the concept of the unborn child” as a reality — that babies before birth are human beings. As Peter Robinson noted in the first video, Hitchens was “squeamish” about abortion, if not quite pro-life. However, if you watch the full interview, it looked like he was about to say that he didn’t think women should be denied access to abortion. In this third video, Hitchens is a little clearer about where he stands even if the lines of demarcation in terms of policy are not clear. He says “the presumption is that the unborn entity has a right on its side, and every that effort should be made to see if it can be preserved.”