11/20/14

Some ramblings on some letters to the editor....


Over the years I've developed a relatively thick-skin regarding reader responses to my writing. But any advances I've made in overcoming my natural over- sensitivity are the result of hard cognitive training and time- certainly not by way of natural ability. I work hard to recognize that negative reader responses are a natural result of public writing, while simultaneously acknowledging that many times the things written about me aren't automatically true simply because someone else believes it. (That's true of what I write about things too, I guess.) 

I also work hard to see constructive critics as editors I don't have to pay for: they help me develop more nuanced and complex thoughts in order to defend my opinion, and that's very valuable, even when the criticism stings. 


There is, however, a hierarchy to the type of comments I receive, and I tend to react differently based on where I perceive the comment to fall. For instance, attacks regarding my religious and spiritual beliefs rarely bother me anymore. I get it. You think I'm a stupid feminist who has penis envy, and therefore wants the Priesthood to compensate for my anatomical deficiencies. That's fine. Carry on. I don't bother thinking about these criticisms because there is nothing I can do to change their mind. No matter how deeply or carefully I express my spiritual convictions, until I agree with Mr. Penis Envy, he (or she) isn't going to change their opinion of me, or even engage in any type of meaningful dialogue. Same goes for people who disagree with my political views, or my liberal tendencies.

While I usually don't spend too much energy on truly ridiculous feedback, if the argument or claims are insane enough, I tend to find them hysterically funny, and therefore worthy of incorporation, at random, into conversations. My current favorite phrase: IT'S THE LIBERTY BELL, NOT THE EQUALITY BELL, a reader response to a column I wrote about female ordination. I use it kind of like a swear, which is handy when you have a two year old who repeats everything you say and traditional swears become tricky. 

Openly violent,  sexually graphic, or hostile comments still bother me a lot. Logically, I know to ignore these comments completely, but I admit that they sometimes make me scared. I don't believe anyone is going to hurt me (I hope I'm right,) but it makes me nervous that there are people in the world who react so strongly to differences of opinion, thereby justifying a threat of physical violence. I'm mostly scared because I don't understand the rationale, and therefore cannot predict the end result. Is the threat enough? Someone once looked up my home address and sent me really long screedy letter on how stupid and awful I was. It wasn't threatening, but obviously someone felt strongly enough to hunt down my address. What if that isn't enough for the next weirdo? I don't know. 

I get stupidly annoyed by letters to the editor or comments that don't actually reflect anything I wrote. For instance, a few weeks ago I wrote about the new AP U.S. History curriculum, and the backlash in conservative circles to what they perceived as a "hostile liberal take-over" of the curriculum. 

If you want, you can read the column in City Weekly HERE. 

In response, someone wrote in this letter to the editor:

Who the What?
In what alternate reality would Anita Sarkeesian be worthy of a mention in an AP U.S. History class [“Teach Me Liberty,” Oct. 23, City Weekly]?
A blogger? Are you kidding me? Did she bump Al Sharpton from the syllabus? Hopefully, teaching them to think critically includes the ability to recognize leftist claptrap when they see it.
I challenge Ms. Lauritzen to ask her enlightened students which party fought for the Civil Rights Act and which party filibustered it. What was the party affiliation of the governor who fought school integration?
Remember: Don’t fear teaching them the truth—and the means to explain why—to avoid being a failure.
Dave Cloes
Herriman
Since this is my blog, where I can do whatever I want, I'm going to take a minute to explain why this bothers me. Would it be reasonable, or even possible, to do this with every letter? Of course not. But it's a good example of the often dysfunctional relationship between the producer and the consumer of opinion media. And like I said, I'm irked.
First, in my column I mentioned rising suicide rates among LGBT teens, and the death threats against Anita Sarkeesian, to make a point: minority groups are often excluded from the traditional history curriculum, perhaps explaining why their voices and experiences are silenced in contemporary culture. I never said I intended to teach a lesson on, or even mention, Anita Sarkeesian* in class. I did say that I disagreed with conservatives who believe this statement from the APUSH curriculum, "Activists began to question society's assumption about gender and to call for social and economic equality for women and gays and lesbians" represents some liberal revisionist conspiracy. Rather, I believe it's historically relevant to discuss the activism for gender equality, especially since the fight isn't over yet, as evidenced by the recent media focus on LGBT suicide rates, and the backlash to Sarkeesian's statements on gender and media. In class, I'd most likely mention Harvey Milk and Gloria Steinem, as well as their early activist grandparents, i.e. Susan B. Anthony or Elizabeth Cady Stanton. (Though I suspect Mr. Cloes wouldn't like Milk or Steinem much either. Fortunately, he doesn't write the AP Curriculum.) 
Secondly, CHALLENGE ACCEPTED. I hate, hate, hate, the smug "gotcha" type comments trolls make, especially when they aren't based on anything I said. Here, Dave (can I call you Dave?) assumes that because I'm a Democrat, and because I disagree with some Republicans on how to teach history, I must be too cowardly to teach about good things Republican presidents or politicians contribute to our country. "I challenge Ms. Lauritzen to ask her enlightened students which party fought for the Civil Rights Act!" Hahahahaa GOTCHA MS. LAURITZEN! HUH? HUH? WHATCHA GONNA DO NOW."

This particular GOTCHA comment is especially stupid since I never claimed, or even implied, that I disagreed with the conservative attacks against the AP curriculum because the Republican party is inherently evil and therefore all mention of them must be scrubbed from the curriculum. I disagree with the attacks by (some) conservative Republicans because I don't believe exclusively teaching American exceptionalism is appropriate, nor do I think examining the negative aspects of American history renders one "anti-American."
In fact, I recognized that the new curriculum is sometimes biased in favor of liberal perspectives, and that the solution to education bias is to provide a variety of "balanced and robust" materials to the curriculum, meaning perspectives from both sides of the party line, as well as perspectives from multiple historical disciplines. When I say I intend to teach American history, even the dark parts, I have zero qualms including members of the Democratic party in that process. I challenge enlightened readers to reread my article before accusing me of promoting "leftist claptrap."

In the end though, and this is what drives angry readers to hunt down my address, or try and catch me in some "GOTCHA" mind-trap, it comforts me to realize that people who attack my character, or my beliefs, or threaten my physical safety, do so in an act of desperation. It's a futile attempt to stop me from doing something they don't like: wanting female ordination, teaching about LGBT rights and feminism, or even simply existing on the same planet.  


But they know they can't succeed, hence the turn to their keyboards. Even if I was a crazed penis-envying messenger of Satan refusing to recognize the failures of any registered Democrat, there's nothing anyone else can do about it. Just like some of my angry readers, I get to say what I want. **


And that makes me really proud to be an American. It really, truly, does. 




















*Except for, after the AP test is over, how interesting would it be to create a mini-unit on outraged responses to female activists throughout U.S. history. We could start with the Grimké sisters, or maybe Sojourner Truth, and work our way through Alice Paul to the Riot Grrl Manifesto, and culminate in a glorious day of Sarkeesian idol worship. Anyone who objects fails fourth quarter! That would actually be a really fascinating series of lesson plans. 

 (I need to be very clear that I'm kidding about the failing part, and the idol worship part, because sometimes people are very literal.)

** With obvious exceptions regarding hate speech, or any other violation of someone else's rights

I also recognize that while I can hypothetically say whatever I want, I can't always control the consequences. If I truly intended to refuse discussing anything negative regarding the Democratic Party in AP US History, while forcing students to tear out any textbook pages referencing Ronald Reagan as they quietly prayed by whispering excerpts from President Obama's Inaugural Address, I probably would get fired. Good thing I don't actually do that. #leftistclaptrap





11/12/14

before they died, a lot of people told me I was a really good listener....


Sometimes you find a piece of literature so profoundly life-changing it almost makes you believe (or reaffirms your belief) in a divine presence guiding the universe. How else can you explain that one book or poem that so completely describes your person?

For me, those books are The Poisonwood Bible and My Name is Asher Lev. And...

THIS article. The title alone should merit a click-over: Sorry I Murdered Everyone, But I'm an Introvert.

Some noteworthy excerpts:

Sorry that everyone is dead. They weren’t respecting my quiet power and inner strength. It’s a common misconception that introverts can’t lead; we’re just not always the first to speak up.

Some famous introverts include Albert Einstein, Audrey Hepburn, Alfred Hitchcock, and all of your friends are dead.


I’m so sorry I killed your friends. Making small talk is just really hard for me. It’s so stressful.



Spouseman can testify that when my introvert need for space and time to recharge isn't met, I'm absolutely misanthropic, if not actually murderous. A story: once, some old neighbors came to visit us unexpectedly. I walked in the door from work, and there they were! Sitting on our couch, casually chatting with Spouseman.

Usually after work I immediately retreat into my bedroom cave to recharge for a while (sometimes a long while) until emerging to actually participate as a member of a family unit. It isn't my favorite thing about myself, but possibly going to prison because I killed Dan for asking about my day is also not my favorite thing, so I take what I can get.

That day, I got friends. Friends I really enjoy! Friends I didn't see very much, and might not see again for a few more years, since they announced plans to move.  Friends who, had I known they were coming, would make me feel excited and happy about their impending arrival.

But I really, really needed to go sit in my bedroom quietly for a little while. Without these friends sitting on my couch outside my door TALKING and INTERACTING. (The nerve!)

After a quick trip to the bathroom for a mini-freak out, I joined the happy group in the living room. An hour turned into two, and then three, and then Dan invited them to stay for dinner. Dinner, and then, oh hey, who wants brownies? That take an hour to cook! Brownies. More talking. More interacting. By the time they left, it was late, and I as soon as the door shut, I burst into tears. After a few minutes, my tears turned to straight-up frustration. Why hadn't they called beforehand to tell us they wanted to stop by? Who stays at someone's house for that long? DAN. WHY DID YOU INVITE THEM TO DINNER, YOU MONSTER???????????  Sorry I butchered all of your friends in front of you. It’s just that I’d rather curl up at home with a good book than go to a party.

Spouseman was naturally very confused. For him, the evening was fun and invigorating. In all honesty, we'd both had a good time. (Especially when I realized I could take mini-breaks by excusing myself to check on dinner, or change the wash, or check on the cats, etc.) We had just spent the evening with people we loved, and everyone was funny and smart and engaging, so why was I crying?

I explained that I'd been at work since 7:00 a.m., and it was now almost 9:00 pm. That's 14 hours of unadulterated social interaction. I spend my days teaching reluctant teenagers, and repeating the same instructions over and over, (MAKE SURE TO WRITE YOUR NAME ON YOUR PAPER, GUYS! No, you cannot use the hall pass. Can you elaborate on what you mean? Give me an example from the text!) sitting in meetings with agendas I'm convinced could be accomplished more effectively with an email, and trying to talk anxious parents off the ledge via phone when they call the school insisting I explain why their child received a B

By the time I make it home, I need to sit quietly and not talk. Not because I dislike my job, I actually really enjoy teaching most of the time. I need to sit quietly and not talk because my job uses up my mental and emotional resources faster than I can replenish them. It doesn't matter how much I like someone, or how much I want to enjoy spending five hours talking with them, after a long day of work, I need a break.  It’s simply an issue of supply and demand.

I always feel bad when I identify as an introvert who needs lots of alone time. I worry that my friends think I am telling them I don’t want to hang out with them, or that I’m secretly miserable the whole time we are together. It’s not true! At worst, I’m just planning on maiming you. (I’m kidding, I promise.)

 I love spending time with friends, and I get lonely when I go too long without seeing or talking to people I care about.  But I want to give my friends my best self, and not the self secretly planning their imminent demise because they ambushed me after work.

Today I noticed that I unintentionally plan lessons with lots of student group or partner assignments on days I have plans after work. Subconsciously, I’m trying to preserve my social interaction resources during the day so I can socialize later. I probably won’t lecture much on days I want to meet friends at the park, and I probably won’t make playdates on days with lots of work meetings or class discussion.  Just like a novice runner shouldn't try to run a marathon without training, I know 14 hours of social interaction will end in nothing but tears and premeditation.

I’m getting better at identifying my needs as an introvert with a very extroverted job. I haven’t cried after seeing a friend in years, so that’s progress.

But I won’t lie, sometimes I can’t help thinking that if you were all dead, you wouldn't keep trying to talk to me. And solitary confinement sounds awfully peaceful.






11/1/14

Halloween is the only pure holiday

(If you are the introverted, overly-sensitive, vaguely misanthropic type.)


Halloween is my favorite holiday. Here's why:


 No mandatory emotions. As someone who frequently exclaims "ughhhh feelings" whenever a Hallmark commercial interrupts my Hulu, I don't like feeling forced to feel something just because it the calendar tells me I should. I start to get really stressed out around mid-November when it becomes apparent that I am the only human on earth not participating in some daily gratitude challenge.

Am I grateful for things? Absolutely. Is it nice and emotionally healthy to set aside some specific time to deliberately consider your blessings and privilege? Of course! I just don't like feeling obligated to do so on a timetable.

Let's not even talk about Christmas, a time you are expected to be most grateful for your family,  during the very season they are most likely driving you nuts.Oh, you and your family spend the holidays sitting around a fire singing carols and rescuing homeless match-stick orphan children? That's adorable. Are you Whos? Down in Whoville? Members of my family have been known to engage in hours-long screaming matches on Why It Is Important to Be Christ-like During the Holidays followed by a  very terse unwrapping of presents and a fun blame-game of Who Ruined Christmas the Most This Year. Oh family, I love you so much. But sometimes Holidays bring out the worst in us, and I blame Mandatory Emotions.

And then there's Jesus. Evidence that long before Pinterest, baby's birthday parties were over-the- top and anxiety inducing. (Side-note: Can you imagine the gifts the Christ-child would receive if folks had  access to Pinterest? Burlap bunting to decorate the mange! Chalkboard paint wrapping paper! GLITTER. Instead of a star announcing the birth of the Savior, a heavily filtered Instagram photo, #hark#benotafraid#goodtidingsofgreatjoy)

If you are a Christian, there's a lot of Mandatory Emotions about Jesus at Christmastime. Are you putting the Christ back in Christmas? How's your excitement-about-presents-versus-excitement- about-eternal-salvation ratio looking? Basically the only feeling I'm capable of producing on command is anxiety, and I've spent many a Holiday Season worried that I wasn't celebrating the right way. I don't have any Christmas Miracle Epiphany stories or anything that would translate well into an LDS testimony meeting.

I also hate crowds at Temple Square, ugly sweater parties, and Elf on the &*%$damn shelf, so clearly I'm going to hell. But it will be warm there, and if that whole Jesus thing works out, less crowded.So I'm feeling surprisingly unanxious about that right now.

Valentines Day, Easter, (the Candy vs. Eternal Salvation  excitement ratio is equally brutal,) Fourth of July, (FEEL PATRIOTIC RIGHT NOW, OKAY. WE ARE GOING TO LIGHT EXPLOSIVES TO HELP YOU FEEL PATRIOTIC. GOD BLESS AMERICA.) all of these Holidays encourage Mandatory Emotions and I'm too much of a broken robot to handle it.

Two days before Halloween I took Clara to a tiny pumpkin patch with some of our friends. We were the only group there, and the nice owner took us on a hay-ride to choose a toddler-sized pumpkin to take back home. We climbed on our  hay-bale seats and waited for the tractor to start up and pull us through the field. When it did, Clara clapped and giggled with excitement. The wind blew our hair, and later we held hands as she ran through the kiddie corn maze.

On Halloween, Clara dressed up as "a pink butterfly dress with a crown" and she skipped up each street waving her "royal wand" and whispering "trick or treat" over and over.

 At each house, I'd ring the doorbell, and Clara would turn to me, using her most serious voice, to reassure me about the expected outcome of my door-ringing: "I'm sure they're home, Mom. I'm sure." She'd wait with her hands folded in front of her, her eyes expectant and laser-focused on the door. She charmed every neighbor, and I about died with pride for my sweet little pink butterfly with a crown.

We were happy. The real kind of happiness that doesn't feel forced or mandatory, or followed by a chaser of guilt for not feeling the right kind of happy or grateful or patriotic or twitterpated.

 Halloween is the only pure holiday.

There's a lesson in this story, somewhere. But...... ugh, feelings. Instead, I leave you with this.