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 Grimk√© 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





3 comments:

The Cotton Floozy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Cotton Floozy said...

I liked this so much . . . that I'll gladly stand up! Next to you! And defend you still today. 'Cause there ain't no doubt I love this blog. God bless the EphanieStay

Accidentalwriter said...

I am full of admiration for those who have the courage to share their thoughts and beliefs regarding a broad range of topics. I am also frequently disappointed by the caustic and mean-spirited responses these individuals are subjected to. By the same token, I have never enjoyed reading articles which appear to have the sole purpose of being controversial and inflammatory – and in these instances it would seem that outrageous and extreme responses are almost an expected (and possibly desired) consequence.
I find your writing incredibly ‘balanced’ and informative. I have no doubt that the silent majority of your readers would share this view. May your voice continue to be heard.