Unlike some on Ricochet, I cannot say that I ever knew Christopher Hitchens. My one encounter with him was at a book-signing in Williamsburg shortly after his debate with Lawrence Wilkerson, who teaches security policy at W&M. As I stood in line preparing to have my copy of Hitch signed, I realized that it would be a tremendous waste of an opportunity were I to be within a few feet of one of the greatest living writers and have absolutely nothing to say, even if whatever I said was brief and inconsequential. The only thing I could think of in that brief moment was something to the order of "don't you think your accent gives you an unfair advantage in debates because it makes you sound more authoritative?" The response that came flying back was classic Hitchens: "what are you talking about? I don't have an accent at all."
I will admit that my feelings regarding Hitchens's views have always been mixed; I've had trouble getting past his vocal atheism, but one can respect the man without agreeing with him all of the time. It is impossible to be anything but impressed when one reads his writing, and in hearing him speak, one could not honestly disagree with his arguments without at least being impressed by their incisiveness and eloquence. Aside from some of his foreign policy positions, I have very often found myself disagreeing with his viewpoints, but have never believed his positions to be the result of anything but his own intellect and honest thought.
One point on which I truly wish he was wrong is the age old question as to what happens to us after we die. If there is an afterlife, I hope he is there now, and if he is, there is no way that he and P.G. Wodehouse are not thoroughly enjoying themselves right now. His passing is most certainly a great loss.