Oh, how I wanted to interview you, Christopher.
I can usually pinpoint the moment of inception for a particular story idea or film concept I have. For Last Day at Lambeau it was reading Mike Johnson’s piece “Still Casting a Shadow” in the 2010 Maple Street Press Packers Annual. I’ve also for a long time considered a documentary film chronicling and examining the events surrounding the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad Cartoons of September, 2005. The inception for that idea came after watching Christopher Hitchens give a speech at the 2007 Atheist Alliance International event on YouTube. Here is the first part of that speech (the second can be found on YouTube with a simple search):
I think the moment that touched me the most was when Hitchens emphatically states that the freedoms were forfeited “without a struggle.” You don’t have to be an atheist or agree with what Hitchens is saying to feel the emotion of that statement. I feel that this sentence reflected a lot of what Christopher Hitchens was all about.
I never met Christopher, but I came to know him through his writing and speaking. He was a freedom fighter, more than anything else. He was a “justice freak” and made great efforts to thwart injustice at every turn, and he did it with creativity as his weapon. Christopher wrote nearly twenty books (of which I’ve only read one, God Is Not Great), was a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and The Atlantic, and was a columnist at Slate Magazine. He was an incredibly quick thinker and could come up with crushing, devastating rebuttals in any debate at the drop of a hat (this would rub some people the wrong way, but it was only because Christopher was so much further down the road of thought and didn’t want to waste time holding your hand as you tried to catch up with him).
Two of the writings that stick most in my mind were his editorial on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and his scathing review of Michael Moore’s documentary Fahrenheit 9/11.
Of course, one of the most valuable of Hitchens’ contributions to society came during the heat of the torture debate in 2008. “Is waterboarding torture,” everyone was asking. But, of course, not one of the decision-makers was willing to submit his or herself to the procedure to actually see firsthand what it was like. Christopher Hitchens did. And he said it was torture.
Christopher died of esophageal cancer last night three hours away from me at the University of Texas MD Anderson Care Center in Houston. He had been in town for a final public appearance at The Texas Freethought Convention with Atheist Alliance of America.
I’ll finish with a quote from Brandon G. Withrow’s eulogy of Hitch in The Huffington Post: “Though Hitchens was not always an easy medicine to take, he was necessary to our health.”
From the Three Other Horsemen: