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From the Pen of David Horowitz: November 5, 2009

Posted on November 5 2009 12:49 am
David Swindle is the Managing Editor of NewsReal Blog and the Associate Editor of FrontPage Magazine. Follow him on Twitter here
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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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