Friday, December 23, 2011

Kathleen Parker reminisces about the bonding she experienced with Christopher Hitchens over their mutual dislike of Sarah Palin.

Courtesy of Saint Louis Today:

To say I was a friend of Hitchens would be an exaggeration, though I did enjoy the pleasure of his company on several occasions. But one needn't have known a writer to mourn his passing or to feel profound sadness about all the silent days to come. No matter what the topic, I always wanted to know what Hitchens thought about it and, lucky for the world, he seemed always willing to end the suspense. 

Although I had read him for years — and had in fact been influenced by him on wide-ranging subjects — I didn't meet him until 2008 when we were both consigned to the leper colony reserved for any who questioned John McCain's selection of a running mate. Precisely, we met "in makeup" at NBC. This is not the bonding experience of the foxhole, but the objectifying ritual of having one's countenance applied in the presence of another's conveys a sort of detached intimacy. 

"At last we meet," he said, as though this were the one thing missing from his otherwise rich life. 

If one knew only Hitchens' acerbic wit or his passionate attacks on such untouchables as Mother Teresa, not to mention God, then one might be surprised by his humility in personal encounters. Notwithstanding his deserved reputation for (often-rude) belligerence in the heat of intellectual debate, he was as polished as a silver service in the parlor. If he didn't kiss my hand upon parting, he left me with the impression that he had. 

He did most certainly invite me to a dinner at the home of David Frum and Danielle Crittenden, where a few of us benighted objectors to Sarah Palin feasted on Alaskan salmon, Baked Alaska and other ironic dishes indigenous to our own little Siberia. I confess to being raptly attentive to every Hitchens syllable, not least because of his remarkable lucidity well past the point where others had forgotten the first part of their own sentences. 

Among the many things that made Hitchens unique was his precision of thought and expression. What made him rare were his courage and tenacity. He was fearless in the field and relentless in his defense of the defenseless with that mightiest of swords — his pen. Judging from his final essays, he was also fearless in the face of death. Terrified that he might lose his ability to write and therefore his being? Well, that was something else. 

In his last article for Vanity Fair, Hitchens said he wanted to be fully present at death so that he might experience it actively rather than passively. How perfect that a man who was never passive about living would go un-gentle (but surely gentlemanly) into that dark night, and dare death to have the last word. 

It is quite interesting to me that Parker found herself finding common ground with this intellectual heavyweight over the GOP's most famous lightweight.

It is, after all, an experience I know all too well.

McCain's ridiculous choice for VP once brought many great minds together in an attempt to understand, rationalize, and explain to others the unexpected phenomena known as Sarah Louise Palin. And of course inspired many of us to stop her meteoric rise before it got too out of hand, by revealing the truth behind her carefully crafted mythology.

I have met some remarkable people due to her emergence, and of course watched numerous friendships dashed to the rocks along with the plummeting to the earth of her once skyrocketing popularity.

In the end the question is, was it worth it? And of course the answer is, yes, yes it was.


  1. Thanks for this post. It (& many others of yours) confirms my tiny hope that there are enough people in America -- transplanted Brits like Andrew Sullivan & Hitch notwithstanding -- to prevent the overtake by fundamental Christianist terrorists from destroying democracy in America.

    Keep calm and carry on. From Canada (as a translanted American) I am watching and supporting you.

  2. jadez4:27 AM

    of course palin the insane was and is a joke delivered by the mad man mccain in a last grasp at the ultimate power he was willing to dump any amount of excrement onto the american people in order to achieve.

    the woman is a bizarre joke that every single person with a wit of sense understands.
    that she would rise to where she has for this brief moment is only a testament to the small percentage of like minded people who also fit the definition of totally bizarre.

    she is a sideshow.
    the circus geek who attracts attention then revolts.
    only in this case palin the insane actually believed the right wing shills that she was a person of substanse.

    but "hitch" had it right and we all have it right too.
    palin the insane is as bizarre is as unqualified and is as revolting as any group of words one can string together while describing her.

    merry Christmas ho.

  3. Anonymous4:33 AM

    Kathleen honestly wrote what many of us saw. Sarah was totally unqualified to be VP or President.

  4. I prefer to call the place we iconoclasts inhabit as The Island of Misfit Toys in honor of the season. It was people like you, Hitch, Audrey and others who sustained me during the dark days of the McCain-Palin candidacy while other people were fascinated by Sarah as if she were a shiny ornament on a Christmas Tree. It took a lot of effort to persuade these people not to vote for Palin and they still remind me that I am obsessed with her. (Of course, they never mention that what I said turned out to be true.)

    I am so grateful that Christopher Hitchens was alive in my time and I got to see him in all his glory. He will definitely be missed.

  5. Anonymous5:23 AM

    Kathleen Parker is a kick ass writer. I am going to have to read more of her work. She clearly did not take 6 years to get a college degree out of her 5th school.
    Tragic, really, that such critical thinkers were banished to that leper colony. Hell, there's a cure for leprosy these days. Hopefully soon all these lepers will get access to healthcare and be cured so they can speak the truth about she who looses her train of thought between the subject and predicate of her sentences.

  6. Anonymous5:30 AM

    Parker is not one of my favorite writers, not because of her conservativism, but because one can usually find a few logic flaws in her pieces large enough to drive a semi-through. That said, this piece shows why she must have been hired: some very poetic turns of phrase and praise, reflecting much competence. In short, nice eulogy.

  7. Anonymous5:36 AM

    Anonymous said...

    Fact: Sarah Palin is a multimillionaire.

    Fact: Sarah Palin does not have one child prepared for higher education.

    Fact: Bristol missed a lot of school. Some how she graduated from high school.

    Fact: Willow does not attend school.

    Fact: Piper missed a lot of school.

    Fact: Track had problems in school.

    Question: Is there a problem with the Alaska school system?

    Did then Governor Palin use her influence to advance her unprepared kids in school?

    All that money Sarah has and all the money Bristol made, the best Bristol can do is go to cosmetology school?

    All that money Sarah has and Track still lives with his mom, how come Track is not in college?

    Don't tell me Track is running the family fishing business. That family business is making chump change - beer money. So Track lives at home and does not pay rent, what's stopping him from going to college?

    Isn't that the American dream?

    That family business is a joke. They can hire somebody to do what Track is doing. Track's livelihood is not in danger if he went to school.

    Same with Bristol. Nothing is financially stopping her from going to school either. What's her excuse avoiding college?

    The Palin kids were slackers in high school and are just lucky if they even got a GED.

    So it puzzles me how an ignorant woman who raised a bunch of lazy uneducated idiots can constantly criticize a educated man with an educated family?

    10:01 PM

  8. Hi Sarah, Welcome Back!

    I know that showing the world Trigs "Birth Certificate" will expose you and "reveal the Truth behind your carefully crafted mythology", But I just can't help myself, and I gotta ask...

    Where's Trigs Birth Certificate?

  9. MissSunshine7:02 AM

    Sarah Louise Palin was a dash of cold water in my face. I had thought that the awful Bush years were a result of stupid blundering, but after SP I knew the GOP had a basic contempt for 99% of the population of America and were willing to promote stupid but attractive puppets as viable political leaders.

    The caliber of SP and later Micheal Steele revealed a mind-set of, "Oh, the sheep want a women "like" Hilary Clinton? Sarah Palin will do. Oh, the sheep want a black man "like" Obama? Micheal Steele will do."

  10. Anonymous7:12 AM

    I serial doubt that Sarah got a college degree. She is a quitter, and quitters never finish anything. This is just one more lie she told.

  11. Anonymous7:13 AM

    Gryphen, I second Crystal Sage. The day I realized to my horror, that Dirty Wig was not only ignorant but crazy as well, I was astonished that she was not IMMEDIATELY pulled from the race and no longer given media coverage.

    IM, Mudflats and Rachel Maddow confirmed that I wasn't alone in my existential freak-out that she continued to have any kind of credibility.

    I had voted Republican/Libertarian my entire life up to the point SP appeared. 2008 I voted Obama and was glad to do so.

  12. She wrote a lovely obituary - so grateful she was fortunate to spend time with him.

    And so fortunate IMO that she, a Republican, spoke up early regarding Her Heinous, because it had the effect of making me think, see? It isn't just me.

  13. Anonymous7:37 AM

    ....contempt for 99% of the population of America...

    7:02 AM
    Thank you. That's what John McCain and the GOP showed with the choice of Palin. That's why exposing Palin's lies is essential.

    To run a mentally unstable person for vice president is treason.

  14. Anonymous7:40 AM

    10:01 makes very good points. Despite Sarah's claims of a degree in Journalism/Communication, she speaks and writes poorly. Todd may have had a class or two at the college level, but he lacks higher education-- and he was Sarah's chief adviser. Education does not seem to be a priority for that family, even though 10:01 points out that they can well afford a good education.

    I believe Levi's story of Sarah, unhappy with her governor job, curled up in her PJ's, watching reality TV. She seems driven to have a career in reality TV, even though those shows are fake. Her show, Sarah Palin's Alaska was a joke. We saw that she couldn't load her own gun, nor could she shoot that poor caribou. The interesting thing about reality TV is that it seems to appeal to the same people who watch Fox TV. And, it looks like an easy road to fame and fortune.

    Sarah can't stand the fact that she lost to Obama. Never mind the fact that it was John McCain who was running against him, they lost. Sarah has been spewing her venom since she first snarled the words "community organizer" at the Republican Convention. Sarah's total lack of education was apparent when she asked "In what regard, Charlie?" and couldn't name anything that she read. She lives in fear of being found out and tripped up by gotcha questions. They are only gotcha questions when you don't know the answer. She may have fooled a relatively uneducated Alaska population, but her act wore thin in the lower 48 where many kids do go to college and dream of a meaningful career instead of aspiring to be a reality TV star.

    Sarah showed her ignorance when she said that many kids' parents bought them a passport and a backpack, paying for a trip to Europe after high school. Her mean girl remarks were offered as an excuse for her own lack of foreign travel or foreign policy expertise. Yes, Sarah really does hate people who are smarter than she is because by comparison, they make her look dumb. And, Sarah wasn't even smart enough to follow Karl Rove's advise when she left her job as governor. He told her to study and get some "gravitas."

  15. Anonymous7:55 AM

    Don't know about any of YOU, but after the idiotic holiday card rant I can hardly wait to hear her Easter message!

    Queen Esther my keester.

  16. Anonymous11:04 AM

    Finally, a topic that American conservatives, Republicans, Democrats, liberals, and Independents fully agree on: Sarah Palin is an empty red suit.

    Way to be a uniter, Quitter!

  17. Anonymous11:23 AM

    GOPers love to point out that when McCain put Palin on his ticket, the extreme conservative base added their support to McCain. However, they never mention the vital fact that tons of pre-existing support for McCain also vanished in that instant.

    Count me in as one of the many who found McCain's first presidential-type decision incompetent and disastrous. Kudos to Kathleen Parker who had the guts to call out McCain and Palin at that time.

  18. .....and I might add that I never would have ound this site or you, Gryph, if it were not for Sarah Palin.
    Thank you.

  19. WaStateUrbanGOPer2:59 PM

    Great post, Gryphen. You should start a feature re: center-right revulsion to Sarah Palin and her ilk. Regular quotes from Andrew Sullivan, Frum, Chris Buckley, et al.

    I can assure everyone who reads this blog that if William F. Buckley had died on 2/28/09, and not 2/28/08, that Sarah Palin's career in national politics would have been a very brief one. Genuine conservatism has no patience with know-nothing yokels who speak in tongues and believe in witchcraft, and who have such a massive contempt for reality that they cannot distinguish between their own odd lies and the most basic everyday facts.

    I seriously doubt that WFB would've been reticent on the subject of the Wasilla Whackjob's awfulness.

  20. Anonymous4:31 PM

    "And, Sarah wasn't even smart enough to follow Karl Rove's advise when she left her job as governor. He told her to study and get some "gravitas."

    @ 7:40 Anon- I think she has been looking for gravitas on the Taco Bell menu ever since. She probably thinks they're a special, temporary treat like McRibs and anxiously awaits their return.

  21. Anonymous6:44 PM

    What a great memorial to Hitch. I don't know why, but Katleen Parker just rubs me the wrong way- but this made me see her in a different light.
    When the presidential race was going on, my dad was in the late stages of his fight with stage four cancer, the moment she took the stage, he immediately said "That bastard went for the t and a, she's a bimbo", then came the interviews and they kept her in a straight jacket for weeks behind McCain's shed, I started digging for info and found the blogs the ONLY media that showed her for what she is.
    I'm so glad my dad lived long enough to see President Obama's inauguration.
    Anyway, you're right, Gryph. This low life gold digger caused a lot of grief among the blogs. I know only a little about the lost friends, just what played out on the blogs, but I have to give you a lot of credit for staying true to yourself, and keeping up the good fight.
    I learn a lot from you and your commenters and I appreciate you all.

    Happy Holidays.


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