I’m always on the lookout for writers of unique talent with mastery of syntax, keen intellect, the ability to change minds, prose abounding in both beauty and resonance. They linger with you. They plant a seed.
Chris Hedges is one of these. Formerly with the New York Times (1990-2005), he currently writes a column for the ScheerPost, known for its thoughtful reporting and in-depth analysis.
Hedges was a 2002 recipient of a Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting, profiling the threat of the global terrorism network in the aftermath of 9/11.
He’s also served as a battlefield correspondent during the Bosnian and Kuwait interventions. It was Hedges who revealed the Srebrenica massacre in 1995.
This morning I read his extended piece “Ukraine: The War That Went Wrong”
(January 29, 2023). Sobering, it should serve as a cautionary warning to an escalating conflict that shows signs of getting out-of-hand.
What I like is his even handedness. Non-partisan, he tells it as he sees it. Both Democrats and Republicans have much to answer for. America has been, sadly, an imperialist power, provoking conflicts with no resolution. Like once formidable Britain, its dominance continues to wane.
Hedges graduated as an English major from Colgate University, where he helped found a LGBT group, though a heterosexual. What motivates him is social justice for the marginalized.
Walking the talk, while a ministerial student at Harvard Divinity School, he chose to live in Boston’s inner city, Roxbury, pastoring a small church.
He took a leave of absence from his studies one year before graduating to learn Spanish in Bolivia. To widen his outreach, he turned to journalism, honing his craft by studying George Orwell’s political writings, subsequently writing freelance pieces for the Washington Post.
He graduated from Harvard Divinity School in 1983.
Reporting from Iraq during the Shiite uprising, he was taken prisoner, before being released a week later. Meanwhile, Saddam Hussein offered a bounty to anyone killing him. Hedges was an eye-witness of Hussein’s massacre of several thousand Iraqi Kurds.
Hedges was awarded the Amnesty International Global Award for Human Rights Journalism in 2002.
Hedges has suffered for his beliefs. He vehemently opposed the U.S. intervention in Iraq, leading to a NYT formal reprimand for “public remarks that could undermine public trust in the paper’s impartiality.” Being the man he is, Hedges resigned: “…I have maintained what is most valuable to me, which is my integrity and my voice.”
Ordained a Presbyterian minister in 2014, he’s been teaching classes sponsored by Rutgers and Princeton in New Jersey prisons for ten years in addition to his journalism commitments.
He has authored six books.
Recently, I read his thoughtful piece on Marcel Proust, whom I regard as among our greatest literary talents. Hedges is no nerd. He loves the humanities and is a polished reader in Latin and Greek. Here’s a sample from his essay:
Art – literature, poetry, dance, theater, music, architecture, painting, sculpture – give the fragments of our lives coherence. Art gives expression to the intangible, nonrational forces of love, beauty, grief, mortality and the search for meaning. Without art, without imagination, our collective and individual pasts are disparate, devoid of context. Art opens us to awe and mystery. It wrestles with the transcendent.
Get all you can of Chris Hughes, a truly good man.