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Janni Lee Simner

When remembering 9/11 — and what that day felt like — “110 Stories,” by John M. Ford, is still the first thing I read.

The second, today, was this post from Dan Rather, offering some perspective from our current place in history.

Mirrored from Janni Lee Simner / Desert Dispatches.

 
 
Janni Lee Simner
20 January 2017 @ 08:35 am

I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute my role as an American, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Mirrored from Janni Lee Simner / Desert Dispatches.

 
 
Janni Lee Simner
19 January 2017 @ 08:48 pm

Are you planning to turn your television to a non-Inauguration station tomorrow to help lower the Inauguration’s ratings?

If so, you forgot to verify what you read before accepting it. Because unless you’re a member of a Nielsen family, what you watch likely won’t affect anyone but you.

This isn’t the only example I could use (it’s unlikely Paul Ryan has disconnected his phones, too, just for starters), and I’m not sharing it to shame those who happen not to know what a Nielsen family is. I’m sharing it because one of the big lessons of the past election season, it seems to me, was that no matter what our political leanings are, we have got got GOT to get back into the habit of questioning what we read, even if–especially if–it agrees with what we already suspect to be true.

We have to start asking, “Where did this information come from?” We have to start looking for known, reliable sources, and asking who THEIR sources are, and visiting reliable fact checking sites. We have to get back to reading and listening with a healthy dose of skepticism, to knowing when to look at something and say “REALLY? SERIOUSLY?” We need to re-learn the difference between fact and interpretation, between drawing our own conclusions and creating our own reality.

After tomorrow, telling what is and isn’t true will likely get a lot harder. If we believe–and share–blindly, we become part of the problem, helping to spread false information and so making it that much harder to find the facts in a sea of distorted truths and flat-out fictional inventions.

If we believe blindly, we deny ourselves the information we need to know where and how to act, and we become easy prey for any passing piece of propaganda that contains some kernel of what we believe or want to believe. We move from false outrage to false outrage, and along the way miss the real outrages that need our attention.

So turn your television to whatever station you want; it won’t really matter. In the years ahead, a lot of other things will.

Mirrored from Janni Lee Simner / Desert Dispatches.

 
 
Janni Lee Simner
19 January 2017 @ 12:01 pm

The day before the peaceful transfer of power to those who seem to care little for peace, I headed out to a city park and walked in the bracing chill of a soft gray morning. I looked up at the cloud-muted mountains. Watched a long-legged egret make its careful way around a pond.

I gathered in energy and strength and calm for the days ahead.

I recommitted to art and to action and to figuring out how the two fit together.

I won’t say everything’s going to be all right, but the mountains and the egret and the pond are still here. We are still here. We’ll do what we can, fight what we must, succeed and fail, fall down and get up again. That in itself is a victory.

We are here.

Mirrored from Janni Lee Simner / Desert Dispatches.

 
 
Janni Lee Simner

Sometimes you research an outrage and discover that you, personally, aren’t outraged after all. (While still respecting those who are.)

When I heard the Girl Scouts were marching in the inauguration tomorrow, I was ready to call GSUSA headquarters and express my concern as a former Girl Scout and leader who gave 20 years to the organization and may yet give more.

Then I began wondering: was this a national-level action, or a troop level action? Because individual troops and individual girls make their own decisions. That’s an important part of how Girl Scouting works.

So I began looking around and asking questions, and someone finally pointed me to a statement that was just made by GSUSA. The girls who are marching come from the Washington, DC Girl Scout council, and do so voluntarily. To me, this says they chose to be there.

Other girls, from countless councils around the country will be marching in the Women’s Marches in DC and around the country the next day.

Girl Scouting is, among other things, a place for girls to find their voice. I’m not personally thrilled some scouts have chosen to represent the organization by marching in the inauguration, but I’d be even more unhappy if anyone, either Friday’s marchers or Saturday’s, were told not to express their views. Girl Scouting is an organization, but Girl Scouts are individuals.

None of us are going to agree with those who hold similar views all the time. I respect that many people differently about the Scouts’ plans for this weekend. (And they’re Girl Scouts. They likely did plan, rather than having the troop leaders do all the planning for them.)

But when we see a new concern, I think it’s important to do some research and give it some thought, rather than simply responding to calls to action that come across our social media feeds. Whatever our political beliefs, we need to find out what’s actually happened in order to see what we actually think.

Mirrored from Janni Lee Simner / Desert Dispatches.

 
 
 
Janni Lee Simner
05 December 2016 @ 10:52 am

“Tonight
It might look pretty bad
We might lose everything
We thought that we had
But shadows will pass
Smoke, it will clear
If something survives of us around here …”

Mirrored from Janni Lee Simner / Desert Dispatches.

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Janni Lee Simner
04 December 2016 @ 01:47 pm

“Nobody who says, ‘I told you so’ has ever been, or will ever be, a hero.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin, The Language of the Night

“And then.
“The great connective, the thread that binds the patchwork fabric of stories. And then this happen. And then that. One thing after another, until the end of the story. And then it stops. And then everything stays the same forever and ever, because a story once told is unchanging, everlasting. Imprisoned in amber.
“As if like was like that …”
― Richard Grant, Rumors of Spring

“What exactly are you here for?”
“To see with eyes unclouded by hate.”
― Hayao Miyazaki, Princess Mononoke

“Well, what is it?” I cried. “What is his crime?”
“Cruelty,” whispered Snout.
I felt my stomach tighten. “Cruelty?” I asked, wondering if I had heard right.
“In the civilized galaxy, cruelty is the greatest of all crimes,” said Madame Pong. “Of course, life always involves some suffering, and there are times when painful things must be done for life to continue. But an intelligent being who takes pleasure in causing pain to others–well, such an individual is considered dangerously bent.”
“You must understand,” said Tar Gibbons, “that empathy is the heart of civilization.”
“Empathy?”
“The ability to understand what another feels,” said Snout. “It is the trait that lifts us above the animals.”
― Bruce Coville, Aliens Ate My Homework


Mirrored from Janni Lee Simner / Desert Dispatches.

 
 
Janni Lee Simner
30 November 2016 @ 11:51 am

“Into the woods,
It’s always when
You think at last
You’re through, and then
Into the woods you go again
To take another journey.”
―Stephen Sondheim, Into the Woods

“And for adults, the world of fantasy books returns to us the great words of power which, in order to be tamed, we have excised from our adult vocabularies. These words are the pornography of innocence, words which adults no longer use with other adults, and so we laugh at them and consign them to the nursery, fear masking as cynicism. These are the words that were forged in the earth, air, fire, and water of human existence, and the words are:
Love. Hate. Good. Evil. Courage. Honor. Truth.”
―Jane Yolen, Touch Magic: Fantasy, Faerie & Folklore in the Literature of Childhood

“This is. And thou art. There is no safety. There is no end. The word must be heard in silence. There must be darkness to see the stars. The dance is always danced above the hollow place, above the terrible abyss.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin, The Farthest Shore

“Now you’re on your own
Only me beside you
Still, you’re not alone
No one is alone
Truly
No one is alone …
You move just a finger,
Say the slightest word,
Something’s bound to linger
Be heard
No one acts alone.”
―Stephen Sondheim, Into the Woods

“There’s lots of kinds of chains. You can’t see most of them, the ones that bind folks together. But people build them, link by link. Sometimes the links are weak, snap like this one did. That’s another funny thing, now that I think of it. Sometimes when you mend a chain, the place where you fix it is strongest of all.”
― Bruce Coville, Into the Land of the Unicorns

“This is our world. Aye, there’s more than enough of darkness in it. But over everything there’s all this joy, Kit. There’s all this lovely, lovely light.”
― David Almond, Kit’s Wilderness


Mirrored from Janni Lee Simner / Desert Dispatches.

 
 
Janni Lee Simner
07 November 2016 @ 07:27 pm

I can’t remember when I decided I couldn’t handle being politically engaged anymore.

Maybe it was around the time I watched the 2000 presidential election be decided by a Supreme Court decision because the nation simply wasn’t patient enough to wait for a recount to happen. Maybe it was in 2001 when I watched the winner of that election squander the sympathy and goodwill our nation had after 9/11 and turn it into an excuse to attack and kill the citizens of a country that had nothing to do with those attacks. Maybe it was more personal, the result of various personal challenges in the years that followed that left me feeling overwhelmed and unable to deal with hard news in the larger world.

Whatever the reason, I tuned out a lot in those years, focusing on my writing and on a few hours a week of local volunteer work in my own community, ignoring the helpless feeling I felt in the face of larger events. I figured I was at least doing something to make the world a little better, which was true enough. It would have to be enough.

That helpless feeling felt pretty familiar by the current presidential election. I hunkered down, listened to only as much news as I could bear, and prepared to cast my vote, locally and nationally, even as I grew more and more anxious–anxious about the level of hate and anger I was seeing; anxious about the way the republican presidential candidate’s policies would hurt loved ones who were part of the many groups that candidate attacked; anxious at the thought of someone who didn’t seem to understand basic constitutional protections, who lacked the impulse control to avoid angry tweeting at 3 a.m., gaining access to nuclear codes.

At the same time, I came to respect the democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, more and more, not agreeing with her on everything, but respecting much of the work she’d done domestically and abroad; respecting her extensive experience, knowledge, and willingness to do her homework, to listen and learn and change; respecting the restraint in the face of attack that meant that while I still disagreed with much of her approach to foreign policy, she would be someone I could trust with those nuclear codes, because she wouldn’t be making decisions on a whim when someone insulted her, or in a fit of anger in the middle of the night.

I found myself feeling actively excited about her candidacy, but as the polls tightened, my feelings of concern and anxiety and outright fear for what the future might look like grew. I alternately tried to ignore the news and read it obsessively online.

Then one day last week while I was trying to set that anxiety aside and focus on my writing, it hit me: if I really believed the fate of my country and the world was at stake, why was I being so passive about it? A few not-writing days wouldn’t destroy my career–and I lived in Arizona, which for once was a swing state. There had to be something I could do, even in these last few days. Everything else could wait.

I spent a couple mornings making phone calls. Then this weekend I joined the Get Out the Vote effort and began knocking on doors. I did both these things with some trepidation. Talking to complete strangers was a bit outside my comfort zone, and I feared I would only become more anxious and scared if I did it.

That didn’t happen.

Not only was talking to people easier than I feared, not only did I have some great conversations with would-be voters, but the more I did, the more my anxiety went down. I no longer felt depressed and hopeless. I felt actively hopeful. I was doing something.

Maybe that would make a small difference. Lots of people were doing something. Maybe all those small differences would add up to a big difference.

After a while, I was even having fun. I felt … optimistic. It’d been a long time since I’d felt this way.

I don’t know what will happen tomorrow, though I know what I’m hoping for–hoping so hard for, for the sake of us all.

But whatever happens, I no longer feel despair. I do feel like after tomorrow, I’ll know the shape of the next fight I need to play my own small part in.

I’m feel like I’m ready to start fighting again, and I’m hopeful I can hold on to that feeling this time.

I can’t do everything. I can’t change everything. But I can do something.

Mirrored from Janni Lee Simner / Desert Dispatches.