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Summer in the City, Summer in the Middle East

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Posted on August 9 2010 10:00 pm
Phyllis Chesler is an Emerita Professor of Psychology and Women's Studies at City University of New York. For extended biography visit The Phyllis Chesler Organization.

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Rachel Weisz as Hypatia

For more than forty years, when summer came, I always left town, either for long weekends or for the entire summer. In other words, I simply took my work to another location—to New Hampshire,  Massachusetts, Vermont, or to East Hampton, Long Island, where once I had a place, a pre-revolutionary cottage: charming, low-ceilinged, uncomfortable, absolutely authentic. Sometimes, I would travel to Europe and the Middle East.

I now see the loveliness of New York City in summer: It is lush and leafy, there are more fountains and parks than I ever realized and, despite the onslaught of tourists, fewer people are actually waiting in line for museums and restaurants. So, how does a working intellectual spend her time off? Well, here’s how I just spent this past weekend.

First, I visited my beloved son and daughter-in-law and new granddaughter. Yes, they are reason enough not to leave the city for they are here and not traveling far. I saw two dear friends, each on different days.

Then, I turned to my beloved books, journals, newspapers. I no longer can keep up with them all; maybe there are simply more of them now.

Thus, after reading all my hardcopy newspapers, I began reading the New York Review of Books’ hatchet job (“Righteous and Wrong”) performed by Malise Ruthven on both Paul Berman and Aayan Hirsi Ali on behalf of Ian Buruma’s and Tariq Ramadan’s “honor.” Yes, Ruthven makes some interesting, minor points, but he has malice aforethought; his piece is loaded with false moral equivalencies and heartless cleverness. I actually stopped reading it mid-sentence. The worst cut of all was made by the Review itself when it decided to place this five page heavy metal jacket attack at the back on pages 84-88; only the Letters to the Editor follow.

A review at the back of any newspaper is often, but not always, a sign of being dismissed, sent to the back of the class.

I was on the phone and email with an American woman who is trapped in an Arab, Muslim country, trying to get her American born daughter out. The matter languishes, time passes, rescue is nowhere in sight, the media is circling. Will they help, will they harm the matter? Hard to tell.

I tried to put out several brush fires concerning the greater versus the lesser importance of all those who cared about the Rifqa Bary case. This was exhausting.

For the record: Let it be noted that I hereby praise all those who wish to be praised for their work on this case.

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