Friday, December 16, 2011

Christopher Hitchens, R.I.P.

Sad to learn that Christopher Hitchens has died.

I met him twice. The first time, in the last century, in the offices of The Nation magazine in New York City. The last, on February 24, 2006, at the "Stand Up for Denmark!" rally outside the Danish Embassy in Washington, DC, which he had organized. Here's a transcript of his remarks at the event, as posted on The Adventures of Chester blog at the time:

Brothers and sisters, I just thought I would thank everyone for coming and say how touching it is that people will take a minute from a working day to do something that our government won't do for us, which is quite simply to say that we know who our friends and our allies are, and they should know that we know it. And that we take a stand of democracy against dictatorship. And when the embassies of democracies are burned in the capital cities of dictatorships, we think the State Department should denounce that, and not denounce the cartoons.

[Cheers of support and applause]

And that we're fed up with the invertebrate nature of our State Department.

[Laughter, cheers, applause]

If we had more time, brothers and sisters, I think that we should have gone from here to the embassy of Iraq, to express our support for another country that is facing a campaign of lies and hatred and violence. And we would -- if we did that we would say that we knew blasphemy when we saw it, we knew sacrilege when we saw it: it is sacrilegious to blow up beautiful houses of worship in Samarra. That would be worth filling the streets of the world to protest about.

[Cheers and applause]

We are not for profanity nor for disrespect, though we are, and without any conditions, or any ifs or any buts, for free expression in all times and in all places


and our solidarity . . . [inaudible]


So, we said we would, I told the Danish embassy that we would disperse at one o'clock. I hope and believe we've made our point, I hope and believe that today's tv will have some more agreeable features, such as your own, to show, instead of the faces of violence and hatred, and fascism, and I think I can just close by saying, solidarity with Denmark, death to fascism.

Hitchens wasn't afraid to take a stand, and his intellectual courage set an example for us all. He was a mensch.

Here's a link to my first account of Hitchens' pro-Denmark rally, and to another article on Stand Up for Denmark!.

Finally, a link to a review of Hitchens' autobiography, HITCH-22.