On Hitchens and #GodIsNotGreat
Sam already broke the news here and over the course of today you’ll see a hundred essays from those who knew Christopher Hitchens far better than I did, but I want to at least briefly throw in my own thoughts.
I met him for the first in Las Vegas at The Amazing Meeting 4 in 2005. I had never heard of him before but was so blown away by his speech that I offered to bear his love babies. Hitchens was apparently amused enough to invite me to hang out at the bar with him, but I declined in order to go to lunch with friends, in part because of how incredibly intimidated I was. Over the next few days he kept extending invitations to hang out, but apart from a few short conversations, I didn’t spend much time with him.
The following year at The Amazing Meeting 5, my fellow SGU podcasters wanted to get an interview with Hitchens following his talk. Because I’d interacted with him prior, it fell to me to get his attention. I re-introduced myself to him before he went on stage, and he gamely at least pretended to recognize me. We chatted for a bit and he said he’d love to do the podcast, and to grab him as soon as he finished his talk.
When he left the stage an hour later, he was mobbed with fans. As he and I slowly made our way out of the lecture hall, he answered every question put to him and signed every book and piece of paper thrust into his hands. The 100-foot walk must have taken at least 30 minutes.
We then sat down for one of the most fun interviews we’ve ever done on SGU, in which Hitchens told us stories and limericks so bawdy that several times we stopped to remind him that the microphones were still on. He didn’t care. We had to put the dirtiest ones on a special explicit podcast.
When the microphones were off, I invited him to a party I was throwing in a suite that night, and he immediately agreed to attend. I was sure he was only being polite, but sure enough that night, there he was at the door, extending one hand while holding a glass of Scotch and a cigarette in the other. He stayed for hours, never seeming to mind whether he was in intimate conversation with one guest or surrounded by a small crowd of admirers. He spent at least 20 minutes telling one incredibly long, drawn out joke without a punchline. “It went nowhere,” one of my friends told me. “It was terrible. It was amazing.”
Hitchens will be remembered as an eloquent and occasionally vicious polemicist. He’ll be remembered for his brilliant take-downs of politicians like Henry Kissinger and any religious fundamentalist who wandered into his line of sight. He may even be remembered for his early support of George W Bush, and speaking of grievous missteps, I hope he won’t be remembered for that terrible piece of evo-psych bullshit that was Why Women Aren’t Funny.
But I guess all that is why I want to put down for the record that in addition to all those things, Hitchens was incredibly kind and giving with his time. Every time I met him over the past seven years he greeted me like an old friend, and as far as I could see, every fan he met got his full attention. Even when he was dying, he had time to sit down with a little girl to figure out what books should be on her reading list.
There are religious folks who are currently threatening violence because the hashtag #GodIsNotGreat was trending on Twitter. Their protests got Twitter to remove the topic from their top trends. Ironically, these people will try to convince the world to remember Hitchens as a hateful man. Like Mother Theresa, they’ll hide their own hatred and bigotry and destructive behaviors behind the veil of Godly love in order to convince the world that they’re the saintly victims.
Let’s not let them win.