Happy Birthday, Christopher Hitchens

Today is the late author’s sixty-fourth birthday. I wasn’t familiar with Hitchens’ work while he was alive. It was only after a friend recommended his book Mortality that I became aware of Hitchens as anything other than a name that gets mentioned in the same breath as Dawkins and Harris. Mortality was an amazing book; the man faced death the same way he faced life.

Since then, I’ve moved on to the other books in Hitchens’ body of work. Currently, I’m about halfway through Arguably: Selected Essays.

I wish I’d come across this advice from “A Letter of Advice to Young Contrarians” earlier in my life, but I’m glad to know it now and be able to share it:

Beware the irrational, however seductive. Shun the ‘transcendent’ and all who invite you to subordinate or annihilate yourself. Distrust compassion; prefer dignity for yourself and others. Don’t be afraid to be thought arrogant or selfish. Picture all experts as they were mammals. Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity. Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence. Suspect your own motives, and all excuses. Do not live for others any more than you would expect others to live for you.

Words to live by and Hitchens undeniably did.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

It seems like my previous enthusiasm was misplaced. The Arizona state Attorney General seems determined to prove that he and the party he represents are the enemies of any form of social progress or forward thinking. The AG has threatened to sue Bisbee if the town’s proposed civil union ordinance allowing same-sex unions passes, since that ordinance would conflict with a state law that bans same-sex unions.

Whew, I’m glad we have somebody keeping an eye on this kind of thing. After all, we can’t have people thinking that Arizona isn’t a haven for prejudice and bigotry. That just wouldn’t be proper.

The part that really fills me with dark amusement is when you consider the implications of the Attorney General’s actions in light of this comment made by Bisbee’s mayor:

The main intent was symbolic more than anything, it was to communicate to the gay and lesbian community in Bisbee that we accept and recognize them and that we will help fight for their civil rights and equality.

In other words, Bisbee wants you to know that they accept and recognize the rights of the LGBT community. Arizona wants you to know that it most decidedly does not accept you. It’s my unfounded and wildly speculative assumption that in the first draft of the AG’s statement, somebody had to strike an admonishment to “go back to San Francisco, queers.”

That’s the trouble with striking down a symbolic action; you’re also striking down whatever the symbolic action represents. In this case, that symbol is equality and civil liberty for all citizens. Oops.

Well done, Arizona conservatives. Thanks for reminding us that in this state, everybody is equal but that straight white people are more equal than everybody else. I’m glad we cleared that up.

I’d also like to make a public service announcement: never read the comments section of the Arizona Daily Star. It seems to attract the lowest dregs of asinine Internet users in an echo chamber of ignorant opinion. I could do a post just highlighting the stupid comments attached to this article alone.