By Jamie Glazov
November 14, 2009
My guest today is David Horowitz, the publisher and editor-in-chief of Frontpagemag.com. He is the best-selling author of many books, including an autobiography, Radical Son, and a memoir, The End of Time. He was a founder of the New Left movement of the 1960s and is now a conservative. His new book is A Cracking of the Heart, which is about his daughter Sarah, who died at the age of 44 almost two years ago. It is the story of a parent’s grief and discovery, one which the author hopes will be a solace to all those who have lost or who will lose loved ones along the way — and an admonition to appreciate them while they are here. Because Mr. Horowitz’s daughter Sarah’s view were more liberal than his, his account of their relationship is also a story of estrangement and reconciliation to which other parents can relate.
Glazov: David, thank you for joining me.
I have just finished A Cracking of the Heart. It is incredibly touching and really pierces one’s heart.
Let’s begin by you telling us how you feel about this book, which is very different from most of your other writings.
Horowitz: This book is really a gift to me from my daughter, because it allows me to show a side of myself that, apart from the two books you mention, is not usually apparent. I am hoping that this book will reach a larger audience because it touches on the universal themes that underlie our political differences. My daughter was a liberal who had a profound understanding of the limits of our ability to “change the world,” and this insight was the basis of the political bond we were able to form despite our differences.
Glazov: Tell us in what ways Sarah was a remarkable human being.
Horowitz: Well, she faced physical barriers that would have daunted and depressed most of us, and that eventually killed her. But she not only soldiered on, but did so with an attitude that was hopeful and generous and compassionate and truly inspiring. She could not drive and had a very poor sense of direction, but she traveled across town to feed the homeless. She was a vegetarian, but schooled herself in how to cook meat because that was what the homeless people wanted, and she felt she was there to serve them. Though she, with tremendous handicaps, without complaint, and without making herself a burden on others, she still showed compassion for people who were unable to do the same.
Glazov: How did your paths diverge with Sarah? At what intersections did you find one another?
Horowitz: As I write in the book, my break with the left over the murder of Betty Van Patter and the bloodbath at the end of the Vietnam War sent me into a personal tailspin which separated me from my family and left ongoing issues between me and my children. The title of the book — A Cracking of the Heart — refers to the process of atonement associated with the holiest days in the Jewish calendar, and to a moment when my bitterness and grief spilled over into my relationship with my daughter. My guilt from that encounter led to a turning in my life with my daughter from which I think all parents can learn.
Glazov: In an interview Sarah gave the day before she unexpectedly died, she said that after losing a loved one, “pay attention to the ways in which your relationship continues.”
In what ways has your relationship continued?
Horowitz: The entire book is really an answer to that question, and the answer is a guide to everyone who loses a love one. Sarah’s spirit is with me every day, providing a counsel for my decisions and a comfort for my sorrow.
Glazov: Your daughter revealed incredible courage in overcoming her own difficulties and boundless compassion for the suffering and overlooked people in many communities.
I couldn’t help observing while reading that her courage and compassion was very much, to some degree, a carbon copy/continuation of your own life, albeit just in a different form and setting.
She learned some of it from you (though she obviously faced her own individual difficulties in connection to her own physical limitations, etc., and it is clear you would reject putting your own suffering on the same level as hers). But it must be said that she picked up and carried the torch of the courage you had shown in standing up for Betty Van Patter and in leaving the Left, facing all the scorn, danger, and excommunication that came your way. She carried the torch of compassion and caring that lies at the foundation of your own intellectual journey, since it is built on your caring for the victims of the Left’s earthly incarnations.
Perhaps this was all on the subconscious level. Or perhaps you would discount my analysis.
Horowitz: I learned after going through her papers after her death — of which there were many since was a talented writer — just how deeply I influenced her. This is one of the themes of the book. She had a bigger and more generous heart than mine though, and that is one of the ways she influences me now that she is gone.
Glazov: In one part of your book you recall how at a dinner table with Sarah present, you were quite vehement in verbalizing your critical disposition toward the anti-war movement. While you were speaking, you noticed that Sarah was distressed and almost at the point of tears, and so you stopped. This incident stayed with you and caused you much pain. As you relate in the book, you very much regretted what happened, and you tried in many of your own ways to heal that painful moment in her. What do you think it was that had upset her? What was it that you were blind to? What are your thoughts on that incident now?
Horowitz: I think I will leave this as I described it in the book. As I’ve said, it was a turning point in our lives. I was acting out of my own bitterness and grief which was derived from my experiences in the left, also out of parental fear of losing my child. But this narcissism blinded me to my daughter’s feelings and really to her identity, to who she was. The discovery of her in the years that followed and also in the months after her death is really the center of this book.
Glazov: What did Sarah teach you?
Horowitz: Again, this really what the book is about and can’t be summarized in a sentence or two.
Glazov: Your experience on writing this book? Anything unexpected?
Horowitz: Writing for me is always an act of discovery. I have never outlined a book in advance. I just begin and go where it takes me. So in some sense it was all unexpected.
Glazov: What lies beyond?
Horowitz: This is a cryptic last question. Beyond the book? Beyond the grave? Both are mysteries, even to me.
Originally published in the American Thinker