My Daughter Sarah and the Lack of Civil Dialogue in our Culture

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Last year Regnery published A Cracking of the Heart, a book I wrote about my late daughter Sarah, which I hoped would draw attention to her remarkable life and compassionate soul. Since its publication, I have edited her Collected Writings and printed it as a hardcover book so that those who were inspired by her story can have the opportunity to gain insight and pleasure from her work.

When A Cracking of the Heart was published one of my concerns was that even though my daughter was actively engaged in progressive causes and was an early supporter of Barack Obama, my political enemies, who dominate the literary culture, would punish her, and her book would not receive the attention she deserved. That turned out to be the case as the so-called liberal media ignored A Cracking of the Heart despite the fact that one of its themes was reconciliation, and one of its subjects the ongoing dialogue I had with my liberal daughter over the issues that divide our political culture. One conservative talk show host who interviewed me actually broke down on air recounting how his daughter had become estranged because of their political disagreements and how he hoped after reading the account of our relationship that he would be able to reach her.

It was my hope that perhaps my daughter’s legacy would be to stimulate a dialogue beyond the political wars. Sarah was not a political activist but a literary and spiritual person. The stories and poems she had written were not political tracts but wonderful explorations of the human condition, expressions of her generous spirit. Politics is a two-dimensional zone of our existence. My daughter’s writing and approach to life – and to the lives she encountered — added a much-needed third dimension to any political subject she discussed.

I was particularly disappointed in the liberal blackout because one of the things I had hoped to do for my daughter was to bring the generous and heroic life she had lived to the attention of the public who shared many of her views. I was even more disappointed at the silence of the Jewish press because an important focus of Sarah’s life was Judaism. It was over the Jewish concept of tikkun olam that our disagreements had revolved. I felt we had succeeded in resolving these differences and wrote about this resolution in the book. I thought this experience would prove helpful to progressives and to conservatives, and that in its small way this book about my daughter could create bridges within families and across the political culture.

Tikkun olam means “repair of the world,” and in the arguments of Jewish progressives it is generally associated with a global transformation and “social justice.” My quarrel with progressives is that they believe human beings can be fundamentally changed by revolutionary upheavals, and a more perfect world can be created by political actors. From this view, terrible consequences have followed — mass genocides and human catastrophes on an unprecedented scale. But this was not the way my daughter approached tikkun olam and the task of achieving social justice (a term I still find problematic). Sarah was not a sentimentalist and she cast a properly skeptical eye on human actors, their motives and behaviors. Her view was that if the world is to be redeemed it would have to be one individual at a time, and should not be based on the expectation of miraculous changes in human character. This was a view I could live with.

I also admired the example she set in showing that compassion was not incompatible with a firm view of justice, and that embracing both was a better way of being: “If you see someone in the fullness of their humanity, you see how they are acting out their own confusion and suffering,” she wrote me. “This does not justify hurtful or evil acts. It doesn’t even always inspire forgiveness. But if you see someone this way, you respond more in sadness than in anger. And that is simply a more excellent state of being.”

Just before Sarah’s death, she was interviewed by the Jewish online magazine NextBook. The title of the interview was “Vision of Unity: An Activist Poet Explores the Religious Side of Social Justice.” Because of the magazine’s interest in my daughter’s work, I appealed to its editors to consider the book I had written and share its account of her life with their readers. I was encouraged to think that NextBook would be open to such an appeal because of a blurb that had been provided for A Cracking of the Heart by Ruth Messinger, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America and a former Democratic president of the Borough of Manhattan.

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  • Tom S

    Thank you for posting this up, David….OK, maybe I can try the GIVE-IT-TO-A-LIBERAL-FRIEND angle….it's a fine book, maybe it'll help. God Bless you and your work.

    Tom S
    Las Vegas

  • Chezwick_Mac

    David's humanity is revealed in much of his work, not only 'A Cracking of the Heart', but in 'Radical Son' and 'The End of Time'. It is the remarkable combination of a developed human sensibility on the one hand…and an uncompromising political warrior on the other, that I find so compelling about the man.

    I myself am estranged from certain family members (and certain friends from my youth) over outstanding political differences. I know in my heart I love them…and I certainly recognize my own responsibility in the estrangement, but it can be a very difficult thing to overcome contempt for the views of others, even those whom you love.

    David has given us an example of how to do so through his account of his relationship with Sarah….how to find and recognize the elements in opposing views that have genuine merit. I don't possess his wisdom or his fortitude, but I'm trying.

  • http://www.mysapce.com/freddawes1776/ Fred Dawes

    Sorrow and gref will always be with us all, but God will always be here.

  • http://netzero.com Steve Chavez

    "Brother against Brother!" This quote is from a high-ranking member of CPUSA who advocated the "overthrow of the United States through force if necessary! Brother against Brother!" Me against my sister! My sister, a far-left stuck in the sixties hippy, has a business and before the 2008 election, she had Hillary buttons and bumber stickers in her store. Then after she went to see Obama, she had his stuff all over the store. When he won she didn't take it down so I scolded her that she had to remain neutral since many people were Republicans, like me, and others who don't want to be bombarded by political stuff when they shop. She didn't care and left it up! Stubborn, brainwashed, and will blame her downfall on Bush, the Republicans, and the Tea Party!

  • yrd4soundingoff

    David, I am sure you are not surprised that the liberal left is not interested in living their own words. It's fine to lecture every one else on how we should all get along, we should tone down our rhetoric. However, if someone even remotely connected to a non-liberal advances these same memes, it doesn't matter. They are so pitiful.

  • Carolyn

    "Radical Son," is one of my favorite books; it taught me more about the inner workings of the Left than I had known and convinced me again that even with its faults, the Conservative view is unparalleled. (Thanks to Jamie Glazov for recommending the book.) "A Cracking of the Heart" comes next.

  • muchiboy

    God Bless you,David,and your little daughter Sarah (our daughters will always be little to us).Ron Grant and Family

  • waterwillows

    The idea of 'repairing the world' has a mighty fine, nobel sound to it. I can understand how a people might get caught up in that idea. It is of course, doomed to constant failure and much fustration. There are too many obvious faults to such an idea.
    Why not consider what is workable? That would be, how about the repair of oneself? Now that is something where one can see tangible results of much worth. One of the noticable 'drawbacks' to switching to this cause, is that is lacks the 'nobel feel' a person can aquire by focusing on the world, instead of oneself.
    But, if we were to forgo this fleeting flight of fancy and go for the rock solid results of self repair, we will have done our part in no small measure.
    Me, I think I have learned to leave the reparing of the world to it's Creator. Besides, He said He would never share His Glory, so why waste my time?

  • Sprinklerman

    The world will always have those amounst us who will do what they want. Some will be ambitious enough to attempt to alter the well being of our Country and the possibly the world, no matter how hard we try to make people like us, our way of life and the freedoms we enjoy. So like Waterwillows, I too will concentrate on myself. I too will attempt to pass on my Christian values to my children so that they may do the same. As a Christian I believe that it is my duty to give to others from my hard work and good fortune of my own free will. About peace and ambitions, Hamilton said it best…
    "Let us recollect that peace or war will not always be left to our option; that however moderate or unambitious we may be, we cannot count upon the moderation, or hope to extinguish the ambition of others." –Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 34, 1788

  • Anthony

    David,
    I admire you most for your devotion to your beloved daughter.

  • joyfuljoyful

    If anyone knows about the workings of the left, it is David Horowitz. I imagine he's much more saddened than surprised. It occurred to me as I read David's story of disappointment and frustration as he tried to get Sarah's story and works "out there" that maybe a good vehicle for her story would be a movie. A movie chronicling her life and her relationship with her father (& others) could be moving, inspirational, expanding, touching. I know such ideas (make a movie) are high-flown because getting a movie made and in circulation is a huge deal. But it just seems like a story
    with a lot of drama – courageous, talented young woman, trying to carve out her own life in the face of severe challenges, and by the way, she has serious differences of opinion with her formidable father. I'd love to see that movie!
    David, I always feel your grief when you write of your daughter. May God minister to your heart and soul.

  • ajnn

    It is a little bit comforting to understand that so many of us have had the same experience of antagonism deriving from our loved ones over our change of politics.

    Thank you, Mr. Horowitz.

  • HenryCrux

    When Murderers of Babies Plead to have extreme accusations silenced forever, you know they fear the truth.

    Obama and Clinton are using this nut murderer in Arizona to cover up their own love of Murder – Abortion is not Murder it is a good clinical procedure that saves lives – but when it is used to murder a little innocent baby it should not be called "abortion" but "murder". What hurts Obama and Clinton is when you tell the truth about what their number one love is: Baby Murder! Soon it will be against the law to tell the truth about their love and practice of Baby Murder because it might drive some of us to try to save many babies by killing those responsible for the daily murder of thousands of innocent babies. Kiss free speech goodbye. Everyone is buying the Planned Parenthood Euphemism "Abortion" instead of what baby murder really is, "The most premeditated and cold blooded murder of totally innocent human beings ever committed or conceived of." Don't you dare call it "murder" or soon you will hear a knock on your door, or a "click" on your phone. You know in your heart I am not kidding.

  • jtbaumgart

    I am truly sorry for you loss David. I have three daughters. All three of them are wonderful caring women. She must have brought you great joy and it must have hurt you deeply to see such disparagement of the wonder girl you loved and cherished. I hope some liberals who read this will open their hearts some to understand the love a Father has for his children transcends politics.

  • bdouglasaf1980

    Civil discourse in the eyes of the liberals means conservatives roll over and give in to their system. We must believe how they believe. Simply acting PC is not enough. They demand totally capitualation to their way of life. They believe we are simply haters. When they lable us as less than human, call us nazis, how can we expect to have civil discourse with them. We are well beyond that. It's time everyone realize it.

  • hijinx60

    I too had great differences with my son. We were just starting to mend when he was killed. No words can comfort and no one knows what another feels. My heart goes out to you.

  • CheDebbs

    Gawd, what an ego. So the press does not review one of your crappy books and it's because the evil liberal press hate's you? Dude, you just aren't that talented as a writer. I mean, your follower's here will flock to every thing you write but heck, the nazi's thought Hitler was a good painter. Sorry you lost your daughter. Clearly, that sucks. I lost a parent. But you know what? I too am a crappy writer and the New York Times wouldn't review a book I wrote about my pops either. Man up and deal with it.

    • ARay

      Classy, you're all heart.

    • Chezwick_Mac

      Ignorant drivel. For as long as David was a member of the leftist "faith", his books were written up. It was only after he became an apostate that his work was ignored.

    • USMCSniper

      A little comment for you from Teddy Roosevelt:
      "It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."

      "Citizenship in a Republic,"
      Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910

  • david horowitz

    I want to thank all those who have posted. It is always a comfort to know that there are people out there who hear you and have similar experiences.

  • USMCSniper

    Screw this "Let's just all get along crap" because I have found if someone does not respect you or respect your traditional principles, getting along means giving crap you don't accept but oppose equal prestige with what you hold as true based on facts and principles. If they don't respect you then make them fear you and stay the hell out of your way. You can get more agreement with a kind word backed up with a gun then you can with just a kind word! Never negotiate anything with kind words that you can settle more effectively with a flamethrower as we say say in the corps.

  • Lady_dr

    David, David, it never ceases to astonish me that you were once part of the left – you are simply too decent a person. I have read Radical Son and all I can say is that left must have degenerated since your youth. The movement as a whole, and many individuals who are a part of it seem near a complete meltdown. They have lost all reason and all decency – any vestiage of either seems more like a facade and not real. Certainly not to me or many other consevatives, and possibly not even to themselves. I believe they are in a downward spiral to . . . I don't know . . . hell perhaps. And they want to take everyone else with them.

    Thank you for all you do – your efforts are the real Tikkun Olam.

  • writerschronicle

    The following are in quotes from a four page review I wrote about "A Cracking of the Heart" in my own MFA project. What I find operative in rereading my review is that Mr. Horowitz and Sarah both earned their arguments. Mr. Horowitz tried to protect his daughter and is also trying to warn and protect a society. What else can a parent, writer and decent person do? Is it that elements in the media and cultural decision makers object to individuals earning arguments?

    “What Horowitz exposes is an individual with tremendous courage who like her father earned her own arguments.”

    “It is Horowitz’ confession that as he recalls the last conversations he and Sarah shared in the last year of her life and well into her spirituality, that ‘Perhaps I didn’t listen carefully enough to her at the time; perhaps I was so absorbed by what I wanted to tell her that I didn’t fully take in what she was saying to me’ (167). The truthfulness in this statement strikes any parent. The need to want to “tell” warn, advise, instead of listening. Horowitz wanted his daughter to be safe, not to be trusting of radical illusions as the antidote to the ills of society.”

  • Cynic

    David,

    You must realise that that for many of us who have been brow beaten with slogans like Tikun Olam, Human Rights etc., we have come to the conclusion that they are mere clichés used without integrity or sincerity by poseurs who have not an ounce of charity.

    Maybe Todd Gitlin who claimed, preposterously, that I was suggesting that Jews who embraced the concept of tikkun olam were “bad Jews …. was thinking of Lerner and projecting?

  • WarPossum101

    Interesting account. You'd think the leftist press would be interested in Sarah's writings, if only for the "evil Horowitz's own daughter disagrees with him" angle. I'm really surprised they never tried to use her to dig up personal dirt on you. It would all be so subversive, after all.

    I'm not familiar with the term "tikkun olam." I'll have to read up on the concept to understand it better. "Healing the world" seems to assume that the world is sick. I think the world is perfectly healthy and the only sickness is our ability to imagine a different one. Maybe tikkun olam will clarify that problem for me.

  • djay1

    What a beautiful little girl in the picture, sweet spirit, sweet soul, sweet child. She's a humanitarian. She has a heart for mankind. So does THE MOST HIGH. She will live in HIS kingdom alongside her father David H.

  • Taxpayer1234

    A double-whammy: Losing one's daughter, then enduring her loss again as her gifts go ignored by those who supposedly care.

  • http://www.google.com Camellia Verkamp

    I admire all you’ve written about this subject here but will you please develop additional on your thoughts within the second and third paragraph.

  • Disque

    David,
    You're not known for nuance or for reaching out to the left/progressives. E.G. in your Jan. 5 comments at the Wed. Morning Club with Stanley Kurtz, you say "… these people are professional liars. To be on the left, you have to be a liar." If that's how you clearly feel about the people you want to review your book or your daughter's, why should you expect them to do any honest, decent thing?

    Wasn't your daughter "on the left"? And she wasn't a liar, even though likely mistaken about some things.

    So, don't you possibly go a bit overboard with blanket statements and labels? Another e.g., you often label people as a Stalinist. Could you define this or at least explain more fully what you mean by it?

    Despite these comments, I am a friend and admirer. I find myself sometime making comments about Obama and other leftists to well meaning people who are embarassed and have no idea what I mean.

  • ruth messinger

    david, i want to send you a personal email. can you please advise as to your email address?

  • HenryCrux

    Are liberals insane David? I am a liberal politically but I can not vote that way because all the choices I have at hand to vote for fervently believe that it is OK to murder a baby if it is residing in a mothers womb (this somehow makes the baby less than human – I think they must think the womb is filthy because it is next to bowels, or, perhaps, they believe that the mother is somehow polluting the baby because the mother is a female – their favorite curse word is the M/F word isn't it?) I really don't know why liberals believe it is good to murder little innocent babies in their most sanctified and peaceful and holy beds: But one thing is clear to me, except for me, all the liberals I know and have heard about are totally insane and all liberal mothers are all for the murdering of human babies – they are all the opposite of mother – only my wife is a liberal who sees death of healthy babies by abortion procedure as the worst kind of cold blooded and totally heartless murder. We don't know why this is, but, believe me, we have searched and searched and not been able to find a "liberal" that was not an insane murder of little babies supporter! We are really upset about this and embarrassed. My new name on the posts I have been expelled forever [like Jihad W] from is "CryptoBart" remember me – those few of you who do not hate me for being Pro Life.

  • HenryCrux

    Are liberals insane David? I am a liberal politically but I can not vote that way because all the choices I have at hand to vote for fervently believe that it is OK to murder a baby if it is residing in a mothers womb (this somehow makes the baby less than human – I think they must think the womb is filthy because it is next to bowels, or, perhaps, they believe that the mother is somehow polluting the baby because the mother is a female – their favorite curse word is the M/F word isn't it?) I really don't know why liberals believe it is good to murder little innocent babies in their most sanctified and peaceful and holy beds: But one thing is clear to me, except for me, all the liberals I know and have heard about are totally insane and all liberal mothers are all for the murdering of human babies – they are all the opposite of mother – only my wife is a liberal who sees death of healthy babies by abortion procedure as the worst kind of cold blooded and totally heartless murder. We don't know why this is, but, believe me, we have searched and searched and not been able to find a "liberal" that was not an insane murder of little babies supporter! We are really upset about this and embarrassed. My new name on the posts I have been expelled forever [like Jihad W and atlas] from is "CryptoBart" remember me – those few of you who do not hate me for being Pro Life.

  • Gwammy

    So sad! Dear David, please continue to share your daughter with us.