I am still looking for a better quality list of the 118 that BuzzFeed suggests is now 126, who are committed to Trump to the point of overturning the Presidential Election today.It’s gotten extra nasty now that Georgia Senate upset occurred putting Senator Rev. Raphael Warnock and Senator Jon Ossoff into the Senate and knocking out Mr. Turtle, Mitch McConnell from Kentucky.
I was surprised when one of my colleagues didn’t know who Senator Chuck Grassley was.He had a long career first in the House of Representatives, and then later in the Senate, always featuring whistleblowers.
While I’m no fan of the Republicans and I’m sure if I looked closely at his record, I’d find many a person who blew the whistle given his legislation and it only put a target on her back.That said, at least the idea exists and Grassley spearheaded the campaign to make the federal government follow its own laws pertaining to employees, particularly discrimination against women and all other identities. Not everybody needs to escape to Vermont.
These posts reflect my original interest in American politics, history and political theory broadly cast. I’m interested in exploring the nexus between American Political Development (APD) and American Political Thought (APT) as well as American Studies and Africana Studies or all regional “studies,” including working with Gajo Petrovic a leader in Praxis published in the former Yugoslavia.
This was the reason I stayed in politics for my Ph.D. rather than leaving for law school, history, sociology or business school as faculty kept trying to convince me to do in undergraduate and graduate school after spending a gap year reading Heidegger’s Being and Time with University of Zagreb philosophy professor Gajo Petrovic, who spent time at IAS and working with the author of the former Yugoslavian Constitution, the one that stuck — written in the 1970s. The latter scholar attended the Sorbonne in the 1930s and ended his career as the Dean of the best law school in Belgrade. In the 1980s the Fulbright funded his scholarship on Jefferson at Claremont Graduate School. I worked with him for my B.A. thesis on Marx, existentialism, phenomenology and Yugoslavian self-management supervised by Claremont Men’s College’s public law professor Winston Fisk.
“SECURITY ALERT: Description: · White Male · 57 y/o, DOB 11/18/53 · 5’10” · 170 lbs. · Brown Hair · Blue Eyes · May be wearing glasses. ~ If University of Delaware Professor Rudolph P. Matthee attempts to enter the Graduate Center, he should be stopped and asked where he is going. The lobby desk officer will confirm the event or appointment and then notify me. FYI, Mathee may try to enter by showing University of Delaware ID, a Delaware drivers license or a New Jersey drivers license. FYI, there is no threat of violence and this should be handled with tact and professionalism. Please inform all officers under your supervision. Thanks. ~ Director of Security & Public Safety 365 Fifth Avenue”
American logic is difficult for those who did not drink the due-process Kool-Aid. In a phrase, this means we — the American judiciary — give everyone enough rope to hang themselves. We expect them to understand the danger. The rope is not for hanging others or wrangling a calf or a cow. Due process does not mean that when you enter a courtroom you win, or that you have fifty-fifty odds. The rope is for yourself. Use it or drop it. Courts don’t like retaliation or SLAPP suits. Some of my relatives won one of the biggest ones.
In my case, the rope is for the husband I divorced for adultery. The venue is family court. Each state is different. Family court in New Jersey allows those who have weathered adultery to get divorced immediately — no need to wait for six months of separation.
I had to go to New Jersey courts twice with my lawyer, and it was during the second time that the judge ruled we were divorced, after he got to the bottom of the absurdity of it all. Rudi wrote our Property Settlement Agreement, singlehanded with no input from me. The University of Delaware, History Department, was the heading on each and every page of the agreement he had faxed to my lawyer.
So the judge asked: Who wrote the Property Settlement Agreement? When Rudi said he did, there was no hesitation: The next moment, with the sound of his gavel, we were divorced. Phew. At last. He dragged it out for more than six months as it was.
The point of adultery is that the other partner does not know, and therefore the person committing it had time to plan. And boy, did he plan. I was busy interviewing for senior faculty positions — the three I got, with not one but two of them including provisions for him as the trailing spouse in the academy — and attending conferences and panels heralding not one but two of my books. I was a bit busy, and after 20 years of marriage and having two sons under the age of nine, I figured he’d tell me if something was amiss.
After the first judge lectured Rudi on how he had to return to court with a lawyer, and the next time he showed up without one again, it was clear. The judge understood that my former husband was going to court to rack up the cost of my lawyer’s fees. It was spite. Besides, not contending for child custody, he had time to spare.
So if one sues the other 40 more times, and each time they go so far as to write in their own briefs that “every time I go to court I lose more money and more control over ‘my’ sons,” you’d think the Dorothy Munroe Distinguished Professor of History, Rudi Matthee, would get it. To be sure, Rudi was still a Dutch national, and his soon-to-be new wife was from Iran (though I have no idea if she’s still on a green card or an American national). And due process is not the same in the Netherlands, and certainly not in Iran.
Both of these nations are a bit more clear, and neither offers women as much liberation in family law as the United States does. In the Netherlands, Dutch due process generally means the court says to the litigious spouse, “Knock it off, you’re banned.” Meanwhile, in Iran, as Fariba keeps telling me, divorce is only the prerogative of the man and his family. I’m lucky I’ve got full physical custody of my boys. (Boy, have I heard an earful about that. “How dare I have a lawyer?” is their line, I’m a spoiled American using the American courts. When I married Fred, the tune changed a bit: How dare I accept child support for the children now that I’ve married a man so nice and kind as to have taken my father’s surname. Well, duh . . . that’s why I live here and not there or there. Besides, I’d traveled to the Middle East before, during Ramadan no less, making it hard unless you’re guests in someone’s house.)
I figure I received half a million in fines and extra fees that could have been avoided if this scholar from Holland, who immediately married his paramour from Iran, had simply stopped and said to himself what he wrote in one of his own pro se cases: “Each time I go to court I lose more control over the children and more money.” He wrote this time and time again, though clearly he never processed it.
“Yeah, duh.” Then stop going to court. Do you really need a ban from a Dutch court, or are you really going to get me feeling guilty that I’m lucky I’m not in Iran?
Now the big loss is coming up. The loss of the judicial jurisdiction that will allow him in court — family court.
Our last son is on the edge of being emancipated — May 17 — the day he graduates from Reed College. This means Rudi loses all jurisdiction. There is no more family court to sue me in. There is no judge to let him in, hear the case, and then fine and punish him once again. In civil court it will be a real zero-sum game. Those who bring frivolous suits pay the others’ legal bills. My own lawyers counseled me many times: Cases of such frivolity mean you have to respond in court yourself. You don’t need us.
My own law firm — so distinguished that Katie Holmes in her divorce from Tom Cruise, and his child support, used the very same firm. Heck, they won the case that defined New Jersey family law back in1980 (Lepis v. Lepis)
So stop emailing me. Stop emailing me and our sons thinking that you’re ratting me out to our sons. They know. They saw me prepare at least 38 of the 45 cases pro se, starting when they were 7 and 9 years old. Surely you know I don’t even look at this email anymore.
We had a ritual when the lawsuits kept coming. They got to watch more videos, and I double-locked my office doors and turned my study into a room filled with piles — five duplicate copies. That’s hard to do. Writing the response was one thing, but making sure each pile got collated was hard.
Heck, I had a “relationship” with the judge’s assistant. They would call and in a word would offer their condolences, letting me know if I had to turn up physically in family court or if the matter at hand would be decided “on the papers,” as it usually was.
Fariba Amini Matthee, should start drinking the Kool-Aid. Go to due-process classes. Take Rudi with you. It was their father’s year, no doubt, to see them for the holiday: The John and Dorothy Munroe Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Delaware, who teaches the history of the Middle East, and no less than Women in the Middle East, housed in the John Munroe History Building.
As an aside, Professor Matthee used to laugh at young women, in not a nice way but a rather misogynistic way, when they were surprised to see that “Rudi” was not a woman. I was behind the spelling but not the misogyny. That’s for sure. With Dutch being so burdensome with vowels, why not say you’re Rudi rather than Rudy? He certainly couldn’t have been what he’s known as in Holland: Ruud. I did think it made him more cosmopolitan, but never had the foresight to think women would misinterpret him as a woman, let alone one who is not patriarchal. Holland has a great patriarchal tradition.
In any case, Fariba Amini Matthee, I’m hyperlinking this as an AQD post again so you can refresh your own memory and everyone can read how you shoved it in our sons’ faces that you started your affair with then-Professor Rudi Matthee in November, when I was interviewing for a multitude of senior positions when they were 6 and 8 years old. Now they’re 22 and 24 years old and decide for themselves where they’ll spend their holidays. Neither I nor my husband, Frederic D. O’Brien, need emails from you while your husband is suing me — not even pro se but with a known lawyer who defends the men who are caught beating their intimate partners, who are served Temporary and Permanent Restraining Orders.
Even less do we need you to send the text of the blogs to our sons. They know. Did it ever occur to you that perhaps I got their permission before I began blogging about it?
Thankfully, my Temporary Restraining Orders are over 10 years old. This is now history — history being refreshed with new threats of litigation, but still history. So if you think I can be shamed into silence, you’re wrong. I was biding my time, waiting for the clock to end in 2021. Take me to a proper court — civil court — and we will see how far that gets you both, protesting that a public record is not that public. Public means not private. Public means try shaming someone else.
I was waiting for our sons to be emancipated before I turned back to the narrative and law construct I created in two separate books that have been used not only for classrooms ,as teaching devices, but in many training sessions for museums such as the Tenement Museum in the Lower East Side, and at Dartmouth College for a year-long colloquium on how to accommodate people in workplaces and in places of public accommodation. I’m proud that this edited book — Voices from the Edge: Narratives about the Americans with Disabilities Act — had such a long reach.
Suing me over publishing a public record is another one of those ropes. I have already received several invitations to turn my experience in family law into a book. This time, however, I get to laugh about the due-process process. And I’ll now be able to figure out who is best suited to help me with the legal analysis. I’ve already got a great group of creative non-fiction and fiction writers to ask to supply the narrative. After all, marriage, children, marital affairs, and child custody are the stuff of good fiction.#
“So sue me.” I am not going to be shut up by my ex-husband, whom I was married to for twenty years, even if he is Dorothy Munroe Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Delaware. He earned this named chair by specializing in teaching the history of the Middle East and writing about the Persian Empire. After I helped him negotiate the deal to be The Dorothy Munroe Distinguished History Professor, Rudolph P. Matthee, or Rudi, dedicated a book to me that reflected his research about the Persian empire’s history, including the history of women who were what we today call sex workers.*
When Rudi and I met, he was on a Fulbright. Indeed, the state — the Netherlands or the United States — paid for his higher education — undergraduate through graduate education, all 17 years of it. Meeting him at UCLA, I didn’t quite register the significance of such a long and protracted education (that involved living off the income I and some girlfriends earned too) The U.S. and Holland paid for his tuition for all these years. That was how he convinced me there was nothing odd about being a permanent undergraduate and graduate student. He did know a lot of languages, and I had always hoped my children would know more than me.**
Meanwhile, I finished my higher education in the more usual allotment of time — four years at Claremont Men’s College (I had pride in being in one of the first classes of women) and seven years of graduate education at UCLA — and then started working to help him out so he could publish while I took my first tenure-track job. Rudi took the name Rudi Matthee for these publications. After I visited his family for the first time in the 1980s, I realized that Rudi was probably a better name to go by than Rudolph. In Holland everyone called him Ruud. To me, a non-Dutch speaker, this sounded like “rude.” Meanwhile my name sounded like “rut” (and I wasn’t in a rut).
When Rudi’s four-year-old nephew called for the both of us, he would laugh when we both turned around. I believe he was delighted to see my bewildered expression. What could be more fun than saying “rut and rude or rude and rut.” I realized it was easier to simply stop turning around. Besides, listening to Dutch was exhausting with all those vowels.
Then after we got married so Rudi could have a green card, and we could correct the “injustice” of married graduate-student housing at UCLA demanding that we actually be married, I realized I didn’t know that much about the country. I loved hearing about all their programs and benefits, since the Netherlands is a social democracy. They allowed any two or more people a financial break if they were living together. A whole monastery got a break for transportation, or got the family rate. You see, back then, I didn’t believe in the social institution of marriage but rationalized that it was okay for me to get hitched for these specific reasons.
It was at the same time that I discovered that Rudi had almost as many variations to his first name as he did languages when we traveled on an SSRC grant. In Italy with our Persian friends and our Italian friends, they called him Rudolpho. In France, they called him Rudy. So, when it came to how to shorten his name in the United States, and it was for keeps, being his first publication here, I suggested Rudi. I liked the idea that if Dutch had to have so many vowels, at least i was a better letter than y.
Of course I didn’t think over a decade ahead that when he taught classes, which he still does to this day, on women in the Middle East or women in Iran, that the female student body who attended classes about the history of women in the Middle East would assume Rudi was a she and not a he. In fact, he was rather cavalier about it. But how could I know that, then, or that Rudy might have been more appropriate?
Indeed, in hindsight, I should have suggested he shorten it to Rudy so at least he’d be like another similarly thinking Rudolph with the last name of Giuliani. Why? Rudy’s, Rudi’s, and Rudolph’s, at least in New York and Delaware, all have a penchant for suing lost causes. Rudy Giuliani is suing for Trump as his personal lawyer and we can all laugh about it watching SNL, whereas Rudi Matthee is threatening to sue me with his lawyer Mr. Peter (Pete help the male perp.) Ventrice of Metuchen, New Jersey, who usually represents men, and seems to specialize in men who get temporary and permanent restraining orders against them for IPV (read intimate partner violence) or DV (domestic violence), as it is called in the New Jersey Family Court. To be sure, my own lawyer all but assured me that his suit is a lost cause. And that’s where the similarity between Rudy’s and Rudi’s ends.
The part we can laugh at is what my lawyer wrote to his lawyer: “Ms. O’Brien is fully within her rights to post truthful information about Mr. Matthee and their litigation history, which is public record. The Family Court does not have jurisdiction to suppress the parties’ First Amendment rights now that the children are no longer minors. Ms. O’Brien has no intention to remove her blog posts as they are made within the context of professional pursuits.”
“Further, if Mr. Matthee continues to make threats or initiates any court action, Ms. O’Brien will be posting truthful information in real time regarding such actions.”
Here’s where we get to the no and the not. “If Mr. Matthee does not pursue any further action, Ms. O’Brien will agree not to post about the most recent correspondence.” Other than being a victim of intimidation, I don’t know why I agreed to this, and I regretted it the minute I said this. Naturally, I didn’t want to write her back to write him back . . . . you get it. It all costs money. Plus, why was I doing the intermittent encouragement, yet again?
More to the point, how can one sue someone else over a public record? That is to say, a record that is public and anyone can know or find out who wants to go to the effort. Not surprising, she advised me not to use her as a lawyer. It would be a waste of money. Plus now with COVID he does not know where Fred O’Brien and I are keeping shelter. In the end, it was journalist Rachel Louise Snyder’s research that changed my mind.
The Dorothy Munroe History Professor Rudolph P. Matthee was simply doing what all DV or IPV perps do — “They want to show victims they know how to play the system to their advantage”**. This is why he had his lawyer call my lawyer three times before I finally spoke to my lawyer.
Meanwhile, Fred (who adopted my last name) had one question for my lawyer. Since Rudi does not know where we are working remotely will he have to go extra lengths to serve me papers? Here my lawyer was a bit more serious, and she said no, that wouldn’t stop him. It might slow him down, but in her estimation — Mr. Ventrice called three times before we had a chance to talk and she could advise me not to use her, so she thought it didn’t matter if it was family court or civil court; he was going to sue me as a means of trying to stop me from sharing a public record from over 10 years ago. While some people renovate their kitchen when they no longer have to spend money on college, Rudi (who got a deal since I pay 75% of all their college) was going to spend his extra money on lawyers.
What’s the suit about? A couple of months ago, I posted that I secured one of three Temporary Restraining Orders against him for harassing me. The first order covered three states — New Jersey, Delaware, and New York. It was so broad that one lawyer friend said maybe too broad. (Joanna Grossman, who was on Stanford Law Review and who knows her stuff.)
Well, I waited 14 years to start writing. I created a legal storytelling genre with Voices from the Edge and Telling Stories Out of Court. Joanna thought I should do another one on family law (and I will, just not yet). I waited so long I forgot about it. I waited until our sons were in their twenties to write about it, and I waited until I no longer had to go to Family Court — or almost. What should I be ashamed about? If more women or people who experience IPV wrote about it we might all be safer. So Okay, I got a bit antsy. I should probably have waited until our last son is emancipated and graduated from college.
This got me thinking, thinking enough to buy Snyder’s book, No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know about Domestic Violence Can Kill Us. While he always told our sons he hated spending money on lawyers, I realized years and years ago it wasn’t about money. (And this took into account how cheap the Dutch truly are.) Now that he’s five months away from losing jurisdiction in the New Jersey Family Court system, he’s about to graduate to the civil courts. So go ahead and sue me, Rudi, for divulging the public records about the not one, but three Temporary Restraining Orders I had to take out on you when you were hassling my boss and some of my co-workers, all to try to get me laid off or have me stripped of tenure.#
*I’m very proud that our son worked with sex workers during his first job after graduating from Oberlin College when he worked for Safe Horizons in New York City. Our son did outreach for homeless teens in four of the five boroughs of New York City along with a partner, working a shift that began at 5 pm and ended at 3 am.
**Rudolph changes his first name wherever he goes. He reads many, many languages (11ish) and speaks eight or so, the last I knew. I’ve always been grateful he spoke only Dutch to our sons. And our sons have always been appreciative that I ensured they got nearly as good an education in German. Our two sons are fluent in reading, writing, listening, and speaking at a university level in Dutch, German, and English, or maybe I should say American English, since this is all I can do fluently. When I divorced Rudi, the boys were seven and nine, so it’s fair to say I took them not only to one of these countries once a year but also to almost all their lessons in Dutch and German, which took place in New Jersey, not Delaware. When they received their respective diplomas in Dutch and German, that entitled them to attend university in Germany or the Netherlands, I was very proud. The three of us attended the ceremony at the German consulate when they each passed — my sons and I. Rudi didn’t show up for their high-school and/or college graduations, so I didn’t expect him to show up for their Dutch and German university-qualifying diplomas in New York or New Jersey. Nor did he take them to the Netherlands or Germany unless they gave him some of their allowance. (I found this out years later.)
***Rachel Louise Snyder, No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know about Domestic Violence Can Kill Us (New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2019).