Amidst all the mawkish display of phony thankfulness one is subjected to this time of year, I want to give a small cheer for the articulate, opinionated work of Christopher Hitchens. On Larry’s suggestion, I’ve been reading some of the essays in that doorstop of a collection, Arguably. This morning, I happened on the little gem, “Charles, Prince of Piffle,” in which Hitchens characterizes Prince Charles as:
“…a morose bat-eared and chinless man, prematurely aged, and with the most abysmal taste in royal consorts,” who “seems to possess the ability to surround himself–perhaps by some mysterious ultra-magnetic force?–with every moon-faced spoon-bender, shrub-flatterer, and water-diviner within range.”
The essay goes on to make a case for the “hard-won principles of reason and science” the prince discredits and to remind us that these principles are bulwarks against religious fanatics.
After this wonderfully acerbic appetizer, the next essay in the book, “Afghanistan’s Dangerous Bet,” is a serious, compelling, scary summary of the tenuous balance between possibility and deadly bureaucratic stupidity in Afghanistan. These few pages did a great deal to elucidate genuine feeling about the importance of what is going on in Afghanistan and the people and contradictions he encountered. Not enough people paid attention to this essay, and things have not gone so well there in the seven years since he wrote it. It ends:
“Afghanistan is not in our past: It’s astonishing inhabitants are our formerly abandoned and now half-adopted relations. And one can so easily fall for a place where everybody thinks about sex, where bombing has blasted a society out of the Stone Age, and where opium is the religion of the people.”
I have fallen for Hitchens, at least to the extent that I am thankful for his acerbic, original voice. Despite his grave illness, I hope he continue to be able to explain the world to us from his particular vantage point for many years to come.