Friday, July 18, 2014

Friday Grab Bag: Mama Cass stirs Christopher Hitchens.

It's summer time, so the posts take a little respite. But Friday is a Grab Bag Day, so here is a Grab Bag thought.

Earlier, I listened to the Mamas and the Papas sing "Go Where You Wanna Go", their 1965 hit. Since the song was recorded before I was born, it wouldn't strain credulity if I ran out a string of associations, nay memories, stretching my whole life long.  Interestingly though the song brings back only one thought, a tuneful thought of sorts.

Christopher Hitchens, public intellectual, pompous ass, pugilist. He is the thought.

This might sound odd, and perhaps it is, but in his memoir -- at least I believe it is in his memoir -- Hitchens describes coming to the United States for the first time. The year was 1969.  He was still a student at Oxford but took the summer to drive around this country. To him, America was something an Englishman could almost hardly imagine. From his cold, damp, hide-bound island, empire no more, here was a place that was alive with energy and enthusiasm. Hitchens noted with a wonderment and awe that America could fight a war and send a man to the moon at the same time.

Christopher Hitchens later became an American citizen and made some good money poking fun at our shibboleths, but during that summer the man once described as a "drink-sodden ex-Trotskyist popinjay" felt the cool wind in his hair and listened to Mama Cass over and over again.  He reveled in that moment, accompanied by an anthem to youth, its indulgences and freedoms and to independence.

Hitchens was a man I loved to hate, and I suspect I wasn't alone. Perhaps because he popped bubbles so desperately in need of popping, he reeked of a smugness that rankled. On reflection, however, nothing he said runs to counter to me. I miss his British acerbity on the public stage. He never shied from saying things that needed saying, nor avoided a scuffle or was cowed by a bully.