I have, I guess, 3 passions. One is the Constitution. The other is jazz and the other is being an atheist pro-lifer which, of course, gets me in a lot of trouble – all of which combines into free expression.
Mr. Hentoff was so very special, not just because of those passions he listed, but because those passions existed in a man possessed with a masterful ability to articulate his thoughts via the written word. He wrote for the Village Voice for over 50 years and authored more than 35 books. This month Nat Hentoff left this earth at age 91 – and we are all the poorer for it.
If the American left has not totally surrendered a real and principled defense of free speech, Mr. Hentoff likely deserves some credit. Perhaps because he didn’t care what others thought or simply had a moral compass of his own, Hentoff never gave in to the mob’s desire to stifle uncomfortable expressions.
A prime example is Mr. Hentoff’s stalwart defense of the unborn child. A true liberal, he was a pro-lifer who wanted to restrict abortion — not to subjugate or control women — but simply to save human lives and honor the Constitutional rights of the child yet-to-be-born. An atheist, he attributed his pro-life position to his ability to read about biology. His support for the sanctity of human life also informed his opposition to capital punishment.
“Whenever I see that kind of story, where everybody agrees, I know there’s something wrong,” he said. He always argued for the little guy against the powerful and embraced this description of himself by an old colleague: He challenges icons and ideas that are treasured in the community he lives in. He puts on his skunk suit and heads off to the garden party, week after week, again and again.”
Cheers to a life well lived, to a principled man who refused to just go along to get along.