Hunter S. Thompson - an American icon
Yesterday, a figure so much larger than life that during his own lifetime he became a part of American folklore killed himself. Hunter S. Thompson, gonzo journalist, radical individualist and inspiration for countless young journalists and writers, is no more.
Celebrities come and go, their deaths marked by newspaper obituaries that fade away with their memories. Hunter's death, while destined to go the way of other celebrity deaths, no matter how tragic or unexpected, has brought a moment of reflection to some of us who value free speech, freedom of action, and an America that is increasingly disappearing.
Hunter was not a modern man. There is no room in the modern world of computers, deadlines, rapid travel, uniformity, and globalization for one such as Hunter. He was an icon, a remnant of a previous generation, but not a part of that generation. He wasn't a Ken Kesey, or a Timothy Leary. He was uniquely himself, a juxtaposition of ideas and behaviors, combining guns with drugs and liberal ideology. Except that he had no ideology, except for his own.
The loss of Hunter S. Thompson is greater than the loss of a writer of his caliber. It is also the loss of a man who refused to fit inside a box - a man whose identity was always his and his alone, and to whom conventions and norms meant nothing. What we must take away from his legacy is the notion that it is okay to be who you chose to be, and that no one should be able to force us to be anyone other than ourselves. In his actions, Hunter made himself the ultimate American, daring to actualize our own dreams and desires - dreams that most of us are too afraid to act on.
Hunter S. Thompson is dead. His legacy, however, is not. As long as there are people who take to heart his writings and his antics, there will still be hope for rugged American individualism. A word of warning, however - many will see the need to emulate Hunter after his death - to do what he did - this is not what Hunter was about. We all have to find our own paths to invidualism and look to Hunter not as a model, but as a man who took this path farther than most of us ever will.