Nick Gillespie has a a fine tribute up at Reason. The first of many we’ll see today, I’m sure.
More than anything, the world lost one of its most gifted writers last night. The guy could put words together in a way that could only inspire envy from those of us who do this for a living, even when we disagreed with him. I’ve also long admired Hitchens’ willingness to trample on the tradition of venerating the recently dead. Some people don’t deserve veneration. (Though I didn’t always agree with his assessments.) I imagine we’ll see some of Hitchens’ detractors attempt to out-Hitchens him on that front in the coming days. And I imagine he’d have appreciated a well-executed corpse-prodding as much as the glowing tributes.
Gillespie’s comment on Hitchens personal generosity resonates, too. The only time I drank with Hitchens, I remember being struck by his social awareness and graciousness. He didn’t need to, but he went out of his way to bring the fawning young journalists around him into the conversation, to probe and debate them. He then entertained us with dirty limericks. But the guy’s vocabulary and syntax were so beyond me, I really only know they were dirty because he said so. (That’s an exaggeration. But only a little.)
My only other personal Hitchens story comes from a few years ago, when Washington, D.C. was fist considering passing a ban on smoking in the city’s bars. I had gone to the city council hearing to speak against it, and was one in a long line of speakers. Hitchens showed up and sat down next those of us opposing the ban. He had a commitment later that afternoon, and the wait to speak was a few hours long. So I offered to switch slots with him. When he started to speak, he reminded Councilman Jim Graham, the sponsor of the smoking ban, that he lived in Graham’s district, and had actually hosted a fundraiser or two for him. Graham’s face lit up. Here was a titan of the left, come to praise him, Jim Graham!
Hitchens then lit into Graham with a tirade against paternalism that included the phrase, “you’re treating us as if we were helpless retarded children.” Graham was crestfallen. It was a beautiful thing.