What was a far-fetched idea when he presented it in an essay published underground in 1978 was one of the sparks that ignited a flame in the hearts of men and women behind the Iron Curtain that would lead to the collapse of the Soviet empire and the destruction of the Berlin Wall.
While we hear of no such underground leaders in North Korea during decades of tyrannical rule, Bolton suggests that the people are not totally ignorant of the world outside their hermetic state: "Already desperately impoverished and hungry, they may well decide at the first signs of regime collapse, or even before, that their moment is at hand."
Such ideas remain far-fetched until they no longer are, and though this is no time for naive optimism, it's useful to recall that the hunger for human rights is a potent force. Gone is the "evil empire" that Ronald Reagan was mocked for noticing. In 2002, George Bush was mocked for observing an "Axis of Evil" (Iraq, Iran and North Korea). Now Saddam Hussein is gone. Kim Jong-Il is gone, and his son is untested. Words matter.
We'll miss the sonorous voice of Christopher Hitchens, who would relish the opportunity to throw his long rope of words around the good and the evil of the two men whose deaths quickly followed his. How he would have loved playing and stretching the historical references to contrast their lives, to ferociously spit out the ideas that made him the polemicist many of us read because as a Romeo of the political left and right he had a remarkable way with words.
Hitch loved to pick fights with friends as well as foes, and it wasn't surprising that he picked one of his biggest fights with God, who, he famously said, "is not great." So powerfully did he spew out his vitriol that there were times you expected him to be wrestling with the Almighty himself. Even among those who disagreed with him fervently on many matters (as I did), there was always respect for the way he crafted a sentence and his arguments on behalf of human rights.
Now he's in the company of Vaclav Havel, perhaps in an afterlife, no matter what he may have thought about such things. The good words men write live after them. He expressed appreciation for those who prayed for him in spite of what he believed, or more accurately, what he didn't believe. Maybe now he's showing them respect, too. It's nice to think so.
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