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Let us not forget the good old tool, the dictionary, now available digitally. Here’s how it came handy in a situation when the outside reality was the surreal needing deconstruction:
In 2001, in those tumultuous days following 9/11, I had to tackle several fronts all at once. First task was to calm down my students. Ignorance breeds fear. President Bush & Co. were targeting the ignorance of citizens and maximizing fear by repeating, “We are at war.” The phrase ‘war on terror’ was still not minted. I told students to look up the definition of ‘war’ in the dictionary. They did, decided by themselves to ignore the Bush & Co. baloney, and then wrote compositions on how the attack on the WTC towers was a criminal act of terrorism, perhaps a political statement by malcontent Muslims, but not a declaration of war. That class midtown at Hunter College, CUNY, consisted of entry level students, not quite the right audience for my detailed history and analysis of post-WWII US foreign policy idiosyncrasies in the Middle East. It must be mentioned, however, that Bruce Rockwood at Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania e-mailed that week’s assignment to his Graduate Law class students saying: “Read Farida Majid’s essay in our book to understand why it happened.” By “our book” he meant Law and Literature Perspectives, ed. Bruce L. Rockwood. Peter Lang, 1996, where my essay, “Law, Literature and Islam” was one of the chapters.