How Many of Us Are as Bad as This?

Carolyn See reviewed Jessica Hendra’s memoir, How to Cook Your Daughter, in the Washington Post. See assumes this book wouldn’t have been written had Hendra’s father, Tony Hendra, not praised and forgiven himself so much in his memoir-billed-as-biography called Father Joe: The Man Who Saved My Soul.

“For a man whose soul had been saved,” See writes, “Hendra’s voice was sour, peevish.”

And to read his daughter’s description of him, he has always been that way. Sexual abuse, sanctimonious lies, even though as See puts it, “The man portrayed here seems less like a world-class monster than a second-rate creep. Parts of their family life were actually fun.”

While reading, I wondered how many liberals believe most conservatives are just like this, and vice versa, how many conservatives believe it of liberals. It’s hard to see your opposition as human, decent, even smart, when the stakes are so high – by which I mean both that the government policies affect many people and that your passion about those policies is so strong. But beyond those perceptions, these point out what’s wrong with the world. Tony Hendra is a great example of it, a sanctimonious, self-absorbed follower of his own lusts. Most of us, I assume, are a bit nicer or less creepy than he was or is, but almost all of us think we’re decent enough to get by. We tell ourselves we aren’t hurting anyone, unaware of the pain we have caused.

And yet we are all like sheep astray, each on our own, even the purpose-driven among us. What hope do we have for peace, if we’re always following ourselves?

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