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From the Pen of David Horowitz: November 8, 2009

Posted on November 8 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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In my life’s journey I have acquired, among other things, a public persona. As a result, strangers sometimes approach me bearing images of a self, lost long ago. In a recent spring, I spoke at a university in Connecticut, whose name I have forgotten. When my talk was over, a compact man with Irish curls and a snow-white beard came up to introduce himself: “It’s me, Johnny O’Brien,” he volunteered, foreseeing that I would not be able to recognize him. All at once, the eye of memory began daubing color into place, rusting the locks and deepening the freckles that time had faded, until I was able to identify the youth who had stood in front of me in the lines arranged by “size place” at the elementary school we both attended half a century before.

With the recognition came old feelings that reminded me of the fondness and frustration with which I had approached him when we were both so young. I recalled my desire to reach out to him and be his friend and also how we never did become close. When we had talked for a while, I asked him how he had regarded me then. “You were frightening,” he answered. “I was twelve and just trying to figure out who I was and what it was all about. But you already knew.” Of course, I did; I was already embarked on my father’s mission. “You had a certainty and a purpose,” John continued, “that was daunting in someone so inexperienced and young. It was as though you already knew what to think about everything, about who you were and where you were going. I sensed in you an indefinable contempt for those who were too ignorant to see these truths. It became clear to me that someone unanointed with such knowledge could never get near you. So I gave up trying.”

John’s father was a New York fireman with an eighth grade education, an immigrant who wanted his son to make good in a country where making good was a possible dream. John was able to fulfill his father’s ambition, becoming a classics professor and writing a noted book about Alexander the Great, with sources in seven languages. The life of his subject even resonated with his own, since Alexander was a man driven by the ambition to surpass his father. While able to dominate others, however, Alexander lost the battle with his own demon, alcohol. In John’s view, the god Dionysius was the “invisible enemy” who eventually brought down the greatest figure of the classical age. As John told it, Alexander’s story was that of a man who had conquered the world but in the end could not conquer himself.

The certainty that frightened John when he saw it in me was my Dionysian nemesis, my wine of denial fermented in the vineyard of my father’s dreams. At twelve, I was already intoxicated by my father’s mission, pursuing his hope and earnestly recruiting others to follow. In my memoir, Radical Son, I related how this fantasy undid me, and how tragedy had finally bled its arrogant presence from my soul.

The End of Time

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