RIP Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens didn't think I was funny. He didn't know me, but he was certain that I was not funny, because I'm a woman.

That was only one of many things that Christopher Hitchens was sure he knew about me, and other women, and lots of other people who belonged to groups outside his tribe: Male, white, straight, cisgender, Western, educated, wealthy, atheist.

It was his certainty that he knew things about me, without ever being obliged to consider my existence, that always kept me at an arm's length from his work. And his work was good. Sometimes it was genuinely great. Even when I disagreed vehemently with him, I never failed to appreciate the confidence and competency of his craft. He was a superb writer.

One of the finest aspects of his writing was how it told us something about him, even when he was not his subject—though he usually was, even when he was ostensibly writing about the Iraq War, or women's capacity to be his equal, or godlessness. His work invited people to know him.

Even as it belligerently asserted, I don't need to know you.

He was called, and regarded himself as, a contrarian, which is one of those words, like "traditionalist," which is frequently used to mask the small-mindedness of a big mind. I didn't know Christopher Hitchens, beyond what he let all of us see, and I don't know why he could conceive and articulate complicated cultural ideas, but so often fail to embrace simple concepts, like the value of acknowledging the individual beyond the borders of self.

I won't presume to guess. I didn't know him, and he didn't know me.

RIP Mr. Hitchens.

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