Honkala column trivialized the intellectual courage of Christopher Hitchens

To the Daily:

In response to John Honkala’s column, Hitch hits the road; pass the whiskey (01/10/03) two points: First, Christopher Hitchens’ decision to leave The Nation came as no surprise to anyone who read his columns and compared them to the mess that was the rest of the magazine.

But to say that he’s “opted for the other side” is to completely misunderstand the intellectual position he has been taking. Presumably, Honkala wants to imply that The Hitch has crossed over to the dark side, become a conservative or somesuch. It takes a fairly skewed politics to see someone leaving The Nation to write for Slate (that home of right-wing lunacy) as a renunciation of former views or a sell-out.

As a liberal, I have a certain respect for the intellectual and moral honesty involved in Hitchens’ decision. Liberals should be the first and most vocal in calling for an end to the Hussein regime in Iraq, and that only as a stepping-stone towards bringing democracy and pluralism to Iran, Suadi Arabia and elsewhere. As a former subscriber to The Nation, I was always dismayed that those who wrote for that magazine on foreign policy seemed more willing to hem and haw over the ramifications of violence rather than see the potential to expand liberty across the world.

And as far as ‘the other side’ goes, it seems to be a requirement of Left thinking nowadays to declare that anything the Bush administration wants is wrong, and anyone who advocates a policy principle they articulate is also wrong, so, a fortiori, anyone who agrees with someone linked to a Bush policy is wrong. Such a belief is so simpleminded as to not warrant a rebuttal. Regime change in Iraq is right, and Hitchens is right to make common cause with those who understand that wherever they come from politically.

Another note I’d like to make: Honkala correlates the fall of Leftism with the rise of modern middle-class life right around the time of Richard Nixon. Well, he got the timing right, but the reason wrong. The Left failed because New Leftists strangled the productive and substantive liberal policy apparatus of the time, replacing it with the myopia typified by college demonstrators – the logical point of contrast being student dissidents in Iran. Much of Leftism nowadays requires neither inquiring into what the American people want, nor engaging in thought on a pragmatic level about what implementing Left politics might actually look like. This is why we’ve been banished to the hinterlands of American politics.

It will take a lot more than beer and hotdogs to turn that around.

Nicholas Troester

LSA junior

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