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From the Pen of David Horowitz: November 5, 2009

November 5, 2009


While Sarah was setting up her household on Bush Street, I was completing my memoir, Radical Son. Before submitting the manuscript to the publisher, I sent her a copy. When her comments came back, they were not so much concerned with the conclusions I had reached as with the way I approached my subjects. She wanted me to be less dismissive of political opponents and more appreciative of their human complexity. Although I no longer remember the specifics of these complaints, I readily accepted her advice.

These concerns re-surfaced a decade later when she sent me a detailed critique of an article I had written about Bettina Aptheker, a political activist whose father had been a leader of the Communist Party. My article was a review of the autobiography that Aptheker had recently published. I was interested in her as someone who had not had second thoughts, as I had, about the radical commitments that had absorbed her life. In my review, I drew a harsh picture of the household she grew up in, describing it as one that “routinely required the suppression of facts inconvenient to [the] cause,” and characterizing her as someone who doggedly followed her father’s rigid example, impervious to views that challenged her own.

Sarah commented: “This is a nice synopsis but the reader is going to want more insight from you as someone who has struggled with an ideology handed down by parents. To paraphrase you, ‘Where’s the life?…’ Where’s the empathy for how difficult it can be to sever yourself from a powerful ideology? What we get instead is a kind of checklist: She compared her family dynamics to a Stalinist gulag: good.  She stayed with the Communist Party: bad.  You’re basically telling us that you went into this book with a closed mind & a chip on your shoulder. This sets you up as someone with an axe to grind & sets a tone of condescending contempt (never mind, we women are used to that).”

I emailed her back: “Well, this is harshly put, but I get your point and it’s a good one. I will definitely look to develop a more empathetic commentary when I return to the text.” And so it went through the length of the article I had written. It was always a pleasure to engage in these dialogues with my daughter and I always felt the better for them.

A Cracking of the Heart

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  1. Michael van der Galien permalink
    November 5, 2009 1:58 am

    This isn’t a very political quote, but a great one nonetheless imo. One of the major problems in today’s political climate is that opponents are dehumanized. They’re not seen as human beings who, like everyone else, struggle, etc. If you can keep that in mind while debating – that your opponent is a human being, and generally probably not a bad one – and disagrees vigorously, I think it makes you a better debater and your arguments more powerful.

  2. jeanettepryor permalink
    November 5, 2009 3:37 am

    Dear David,

    This is extremely powerful. Wow. What a challenge. I keep hearing echoes of “Love they neighbor as thyself.” I do not bring that up in a sentimental way, but because your quotation just made me realize that the hardest way to put that in practice is to recognize that my neighbor is just another human being, as myself, seeking to attain to objective reality, to see and act in the light of what actually is. Along the way, we camp in the “mind-tents” of, or even do battle, for ideologies we later repudiate. It is so hard to extend to others that compassion of which Mr. Horowitz. Our battle is with an objective, ideological evil, and we have to have the “heart” to be good and mutually merciful with people we do not agree with. But it is so easy, as David said, to lose sight of the common humanity of those whose ideas we oppose.
    Thank you. That’s the “brain-steak” for the day.

  3. del permalink
    November 5, 2009 5:49 am

    I thoughtful critique that loses all credibility with, “never mind, we women are used to that.” I am surprised she sees past the beam in her eye well enough to detect the mote in yours.

    • politicalmoxie permalink
      November 5, 2009 8:28 am

      @ del

      I want to be as kind as I have come to know Sara Horowitz was. Perhaps you should read all the @NewsRealBlog articles about Sara. They are excerpts from her eulogy and Mr. Horowitz’s book, A Cracked Heart. They are tributes to his lovely, open minded child. What a wonderful world this would be if we were all a little more like Sara.

  4. Michael van der Galien permalink
    November 5, 2009 6:53 am

    But it is so easy, as David said, to lose sight of the common humanity of those whose ideas we oppose.

    That’s it exactly, yeah. Perhaps this is one of those things that should make us different from our opponents. This realization.

  5. Marylou permalink
    November 5, 2009 7:39 am

    What a treasure, your daughter! Thank you for sharing so generously.

  6. November 5, 2009 8:51 am

    What a perverted phony Herbie was. Betina was in my class at Erasmus. One day I was walking home with one of my leftie friends and he pointed out a building Herbie had de-segregated. I thought he lived there but later I found out he lived in a much better section of Flatbush across from Prospect Park.

    • Marylou permalink
      November 5, 2009 2:02 pm

      I remember Betina from my organizing days. She was ooh, such a big Something, who was coming to organize us. I had thought we were doing pretty well on her own, but now in retrospect we had been “organized,” or my term “rabble-roused,” into our very existence.

      She seemed so awesome — distant, businesslike, possibly even a bit unfeeling.

      Now I see her in a much different light, with the compassion that I learned from Jesus, first toward me who was once so hard-hearted and now hopefully more toward others like Betina who had, and not to make light of this at all, “a hard time growing up.” I ain’t easy for some of us kids.

      I weep for humanity sometimes.

  7. politicalmoxie permalink
    November 5, 2009 10:23 am

    A Cracking Of The Heart…sorry, Mr. H

  8. November 5, 2009 7:20 pm

    She got brainwashed. Hey one time I had to bring the report cards to someone as part of some punishment as her report card was on top. She got straight As. And me I was a C student. I thought how could a communist do so well at Erasmus. She must have at least flunked history.

    • Marylou permalink
      November 6, 2009 12:34 am

      Smart in books doesn’t mean smart with people.

  9. November 6, 2009 2:10 am

    We at the Jewish Defense Organization have discussed her case extensively and have concluded that she must have told his associates or party bosses in the CPUSA about Herbert playing “choo choo train” with her. And they let it continue, they covered it up so it was not just Herbie the pervert who was responsible.

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