From Paul Kengor, prolific author and professor of political science at Grove City College:
They say that famous people die in groups of three.
I recently heard the news of the death of Christopher Hitchens, one of the world’s best-known atheists and polemicists. I was saddened by Hitchens’ death. I’m no atheist, but I respected the man, his writing skills, and his fierce independence of mind. When I got the news, I immediately did what Hitchens might have done: I started writing, trying to collect my feelings into words. It’s how I cope with things.
Two days later, on a Sunday morning, a friend of mine at church grabbed my arm and whispered: “Did you hear that Vaclav Havel died?”
No, I hadn’t. That one hurt, too. Havel is one of a handful of individuals responsible for the collapse of communism. I’ve lectured on the man. As I sat in the pew, I began writing again—in my head.
When I got home, I hurriedly composed an article on Havel and Hitchens both. Hitchens, ironically, had great respect for Havel, conceding Havel’s crucial role in communism’s collapse. He did not, however, agree with Havel on matters of faith. Havel was Roman Catholic, and saw in God the source of our fundamental freedoms. Havel extolled the inalienable rights of the Declaration of Independence, and the One who endows those rights. Hitchens, by contrast, called God a “totalitarian.” Havel lived under totalitarianism, one of its victims, and viewed God as the purest response to totalitarianism.
Later that day, Sunday evening, I attended a Christmas play. A colleague of mine, a fellow professor, was in the play. We were discussing the deaths of Hitchens and Havel, and the parallels. My friend recalled November 22, 1963, a remarkable day when John F. Kennedy, C. S. Lewis, and Aldous Huxley all died. We nervously chuckled: “Well, who will be the third person to die this time?”
At that very moment, our answer was unfolding in North Korea: it was Kim Jong-Il. And therein is more irony: Kim was the anti-Havel.
Read the entire article on the Center for Vision & Values website.