- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Eroding reputation

“The Thomas Jefferson Memorial is a little different from the other great monuments of Washington, D.C. Standing apart from the bustle of the National Mall, it nestles peacefully amid the greenery ringing the banks of the Tidal Basin. …

“Yet for all its beauty, it is also among the least visited of the great monuments. Tourists rarely miss the Washington Monument or the Lincoln Memorial. But they often will take a pass on visiting the Jefferson, being content to view it from afar. … Why, then, this neglect of Mr. Jefferson’s place? …

“Part of the answer surely has to do with the steady erosion of Jefferson’s reputation in recent years. … Every biographer in recent years … has been intent upon showing us a more human Jefferson — more conflicted, more tortured, more indecisive, more elusive, more Dionysian. Yet the humanity thereby exposed has come at the expense of his public stature. No one dares to speak anymore of the Sage of Monticello without using scare quotes.”

Wilfred M. McClay, writing on “Conquistador of Reason,” in the March issue of First Things

Hooked on therapy

“I’d been interviewing a convicted rapist who was about to be released from prison; now I was interviewing his court-appointed psychiatrist. Why, I asked him, was this obviously unrehabilitated predator being set free? What made the psychiatrist think the rapist … wouldn’t rape again? The psychiatrist told me confidently, as if he were actually making sense, ‘Because he’s in therapy.’

“Where had I heard that argument before? Ah, yes. I’d used it to persuade myself — and a few friends — to stay in much too hard relationships with much too incompatible people. …

“Don’t ask why half of American marriages end in divorce — go to therapy. … Why bother protesting the inequities and injustices that are causing marriages, families … to unravel, when we’ve got therapy to make us feel better about that unraveling?”

Meredith Maran, writing on “Off the couch,” Feb. 17 in Salon at www.salon.com

Feminism’s victims

“From the get-go, ‘Sex and the City’ indulged in an age-old feminist conceit — that women could happily exist without men (or, at least, without meaningful relationships with men) as long as they had a few good friends to share their lives with. Every episode featured the glamorous gals sitting around a restaurant table talking. … ‘Maybe,’ says Charlotte in one of the women’s many rap sessions, ‘we could be each other’s soul mates. And then we could let men be just these great nice guys to have fun with.’ ‘Well, that,’ says the ever-definitive Samantha, ‘sounds like a plan.’ …

“Empowered by the feminist movement, women have become independent, financially, sexually, and … emotionally as well. … Astonishingly, a full 54 percent of women polled [by Time magazine] said ‘Sex and the City’ was ‘a realistic portrayal of single life.’

“This may seem like a feminist achievement, but reality has proven much more complicated, and the characters of ‘Sex and the City,’ like so many of their real-life counterparts, are significantly ambivalent about the outcome. They were, it turns out, feminism’s victims as well as its beneficiaries. As much as they were sexually tough, they were also lonely.”

Sarah Blustain, writing on “Single Sex,” Friday in New Republic Online at www.tnr.com

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