Sunday, May 25, 2008

Speaking civily

Every mother of 2 or more children knows what happens when the rhetoric between 2 parties fails--the fighting and violence begins. This, applied to the larger picture, of course, is one of the reasons why I am so passionate about the study of rhetoric: because the failure of rhetoric brings with it disasterous consequences for individual relationships and for our world at large.

And this is one of the reasons why I was eager to read Sharon Crowley's recent book Toward a Civil Discourse: Rhetoric and Fundamentalism. I've admired Crowley's grasp of ancient rhetorics since I was a new university instructor and used her book Ancient Rhetorics for Contemporary Students to teach honors rhetoric at BYU. It's no surprise, then, that Crowley argues in this new book for the need to reinvigorate ancient rhetorics and to use principcles from it in our current quest as religious unbelievers (her assumed audience of her book) to speak civily with religious fundamentalists. Crowley wrote this book in order to study if there are ways in which believers and unbelievers can converse with each other with fairness and accuracy and to study if it's possible to convince believers to adopt different political or intellectual positions.

Overall, the book is a good one, "good" in the sense that it made me think and it made me want to respond to her via my dissertation. I like her application of ancient rhetoric, I like her acknowledgment that liberalism can be intolerant by refusing believers' appeals to divine authority. However, I ended the book wanted to have my own conversation (civil, of course) with Crowley. Here's what I would tell her:

(1) "Sharon [because we may be on first-name basis, since we reside in the same state and since she did once call me personally to offer me a position in ASU's Ph.D. program], I'm disappointed that you lumped together all articulations of fundamentatist beliefs. To me, it seems like you're putting religious and liberal beliefs in their own separate boxes--you're not allowing them to intermingle. I think, in reality, many religious people (not the Jerry Falwells and the Tim LaHayes that you quote so frequently) have more complexity in their belief systems than you allow for. For example, as a Mormon woman, feminist, sometimes liberal, sometimes conservative, my academic, religious, and political beliefs are intertwined in ways that are complex and sometimes conflicting. I think you unfairly portray fundamentalist beliefs as without complexity."

(2) "Sharon, your final conclusion is that liberals need to appeal to pathos (emotion) to persuade religious fundamentalists to adopt different positions. You seem overly concerned, in my opinion, with helping liberals craft responses to religious positions. As a religious person who as received very little respect in academics for my religious beliefs, I have to tell you that pathos would not persuade me. But ethos might. When ethos (respect, appeal to goodness of character) occurs in rhetorical situations and all parties feel genuinely valued and listened to, people tend to relax parts of their guard a bit, they become open to others as people, and they tend to actually listen to what they say. I've seen this happen with the women who are participating in my dissertation research. They have learned from each other, some have changed their perspectives, and they have (usually) engaged in civil discourse that emerges from respect."

I think the key to civil discourse is to try to understand the other person, not to persuade them. As you attempt to understand someone, you may also come to respect them. And when you communicate this respect to them, civil discourse can occur. That civil discourse is necessary for persuasion.

Now, if only I can communicate this, civily, to my 5yo and 3yo who are arguing and screeching in the next room, and teach them the nuances of civil discourse, I could write my own book.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

conversations to and from the splash park

To the splash park:

Sweetie: "Hey mom, when is my wedding."
Me: "Your wedding???!"
Sweetie: "Yeah, like Rachel."
Me: "Oh. You'll get married and have a wedding when you find somebody who you love so much that you want to live forever with them."
. . . pause . . .
Sweetie: "Well, I already found somebody who I love so much and want to live forever with them--It's you."
Mister: "Mom's already had a wedding with Dad. But you can marry me."
Sweetie: "Oh, yeah. I love you. I can marry you."
Me: "You need to marry somebody who's not already in your family."
Mister: "But you married Dad and he's in our family."
Me: "But he wasn't when I married him. You have a lot of years to think about this. You're only 5 and 3. I was 24 when I got married. You can sleep on it."

Back from the splash park:

Me: "Mister, I noticed you playing with that boy over by the water guns. Did you make a new friend today?"
Mister: "No."
Sweetie: "I did."
Me: "Who's your new friend, Sweetie?"
Sweetie: "I'll give you a hint. She always follows me and does whatever I do. . . And she doesn't have a face."
Me, confused: "She doesn't have a face?"
Sweetie: "No, and she always bumps into things. . . . She's my shadow!"

So, apparently Sweetie's into inbreeding and making friends with her shadow. At least it makes for interesting conversations while driving.

My 3 favorite things of the day:
1. Morning loves from my kids.
2. A temperature drop tonight--hurray!!
3. Driving by myself with the music blasting.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

I'm all partied out: Round 4

Round 4 of paryting: My sister's wedding in Utah
My sister-in-law and I did her flowers after I arrived at 8pm the night before--11 bouts, 10 corsages, 13 vases, 1 bouquet, and the flowers on the cake. Phew! We did have some help from Rachel herself, my brother's fiance, and my photographer sister (who sliced open her finger with the flower clippers and had to receive 4 stitches from Dr. Dad in the kitchen while we finished up). Good times (and definitely not the first time Dad performed emergency stitching in the kitchen).

My lovely sister and her new husband:

My youngest sister took her pics because she is a fabulous photographer. Check out her photography site if you're interested:

I'm all partied out, Round 3

Round 3 of Partying: Sweetie's actual birthday

Sweetie and her Dora and Diego cake.

Sweetie's requested birthday dinner of steak, corn-on-the-cob, watermelon.

Birthday lunch at McDonald's (one of the rare times I let them play in the germ-infested play areas!).

Can't forget the presents. (Note: our children don't normally make quite this big of a haul, but I misplaced her main Christmas presents--her play kitchen, the microwave, and the mixer. We couldn't take them to Utah for Christmas, so we told her about them and then couldn't find them when we got home. She kept asking about them, I kept looking, and I finally found them in the attic a week before her birthday, so they're added to the stack.)

I'm all partied out, Round 2

Round 2: Mister's actual birthday, the next day. Presents, cake, family.

The requested birthday dinner--fish, potatoes w/bacon, jello, and asparagus

The Star Wars Cake, per request: chocolate, with white icing and Yoda, Luke, R2D2, and Darth Vadar (all made of cupcakes and covered w/marshmellow fondant)

All of his loot.

I'm all partied out, Round 1

Round 1: Joint Star Wars birthday party for Mister and Sweetie.
I'm finally catching my breath after the last 3 weeks of birthdays, wedding, and deadlines (fellowship application, proposal for the Conference on College Composition and Communication, the biggest conference in my field and the one I always send in a proposal for). For the time being, I'm all partied out (until the summer vacations begin, anyway). Here's a glimpse of our fun, but exhausting partying.

Jedi Training Obstacle Course, with bridge over water, stone hopping over lava, tunnel, slide to yoda to earn your light saber

Darth Vadar pinata

"Annikan, Annikan, Darth Vadar"

Darth Vadar himself arrives to test the young jedi training.

Yoda rice crispy treats

We also played Star Wars bingo that I printed off from

Our 2 favorite jedis with storm tropper and Yoda.

Friday, May 16, 2008

does it make me a bad mom . . .

if i don't correct Mister when he says "liberry" instead of "library" or "binoclee-arz" instead of "binoculars" and Sweetie when she says "bi-fore" instead of "before" or "wiff" instead of "with." because all it would take is me correcting them once and they would no longer make these mistakes. the pediatrician this week at Sweetie's well-check asked me if she was talking okay and then looked up, completely startled, when she said to me," mommy, can you clip this cuticle when we get home or it will turn into a hangnail and then i might need neosporin and a band-aid." "cuticle?" he said. "that's a big word." so, i know the "bif-ores" and the "liberrys" would stop with just a word from me. but i can't bring myself to do it. they are growing up so fast. soon they won't want to go to the liberry for storytime and they won't need the binoclee-arz to play animal rescuer. i can hang onto the few baby-talk words left for at least a little while, right?

and to copy other bloggers, i think i'll start ending my (very few) posts with 3 things i am thankful for that day. i try to do this in my journal, but i'm not the best journal-writer either these days, so i suppose it's good to do it wherever i can:
1. a husband who turns around on his way to work to come back and give kids kisses
2. friends over for lunch
3. friday night eating out--no dinner prep!