more personal stuff

I promise not to talk about the Electoral college in this one, or even about the election itself except obliquely.

I’m going to have to go back to my doctor, I think (my GP). Lately my blood pressure has seemed to be up, when it was taken at the dentist, my work physical, and today at the dermatologist. It had been high for a while and my Dutch doctor put me on meds; then when we came back, my doctor here didn’t think I needed them and took me off them, and my blood pressure indeed seemed to be lower. I thought it was probably due to changing from oral birth control to Implanon or possibly to coming back to a country where I mostly understand what’s going on around me. Now I’m on Nexplanon, not Implanon, but I don’t think they’re chemically different; my diet and activities haven’t changed much in the last couple of years. The only things I can figure are either that the Lisinopril built up in my system, and worked for a long time after I stopped taking it (which it’s not supposed to do); the thyroid meds this doctor put me on have raised my blood pressure (which it’s not supposed to do); the marathon training has resulted in overtraining (which I’m not seeing other symptoms of) … or the election. I’m wondering if restricting my Facebook diet would be therapeutic.

The other thing the election has done for me is to make me realize how much of my personal moral system is built on my childhood reading – I think Little Women is probably the best example and biggest part of that except for the very few places where it directly contradicts the Jewish morality I was taught (which is, literally, about two places in the book – the reference to the “best life ever lived” and Jo’s vision of immortality as a “blessed truth”). I do truly believe that any individual should be continually trying to make herself a better person – “better” in the moral sense. That’s a fairly wide category for me and probably slops over to the physical: stronger, tougher, more practical, more capable, kinder, more honest, more reliable. I believe in the value of work and the importance of duty (luckily, the 1970s milieu in which I grew up rescued me from ever thinking I had a duty to be conventional or ladylike, no matter what Jo March was told. And I believe in the duty to make the world better around you, as agreed by both the Jewish tradition and Alcott’s Transcendentalist thought.

All of which is what’s pissing me off with a lot of Trump supporters, because “I got mine and nothing else matters” or “I’m good enough as long as I’m not actively causing harm (I myself, with no responsibility for my friends or fellow travellers or allies)”. They’re affronting not just my specific moral beliefs that human worth is not dependent on the color of your skin or who you love, how well all your parts work, which specific parts you have, or what God you believe in, but also my whole moral code.

I wanted to check my feelings, so I had that discussion with my husband the other day (not a Trump supporter either – I don’t think I could bear it if he were). He doesn’t believe at all in the imperative to make yourself better, just to avoid causing harm to those around you, though he does agree that maybe people to have a responsibility to improve the world around them. So apparently I can live with that in at least some cases – as long as the person is NOT actively causing harm, or allying himself with those who do.

Little Women wasn’t the only book that formed me, but so many of the old children’s books seem to have similar morals, even as they put slightly different stamps on them (E. Nesbit’s Socialism, for instance). And maybe it’s because I get so many of the moral from children’s books that I don’t think fighting a good fight should be drudging or dreary. (It’s symptomatic that the English ones definitely tended to favor the Cavaliers over the Roundheads! Wrong, but Wromantic.) Anyway, the best idea I’ve seen yet to get rid of the divisions that led to Trump’s getting votes from close to half of the people that bothered comes from Thomas Hughes, in Tom Brown’s Schooldays. Just widen the focus a little; he’s talking specifically to young men who want to enter Parliament, but this applies to men and women of all kinds, not only wannabe politicians.

I’ll tell you what to do now: instead of all this trumpeting and fuss, which is only the old parliamentary-majority dodge over again, just you go, each of you (you’ve plenty of time for it, if you’ll only give up t’other line), and quietly make three or four friends—real friends—among us. You’ll find a little trouble in getting at the right sort, because such birds don’t come lightly to your lure; but found they may be. Take, say, two out of the professions, lawyer, parson, doctor—which you will; one out of trade; and three or four out of the working classes—tailors, engineers, carpenters, engravers. There’s plenty of choice. Let them be men of your own ages, mind, and ask them to your homes; introduce them to your wives and sisters, and get introduced to theirs; give them good dinners, and talk to them about what is really at the bottom of your hearts; and box, and run, and row with them, when you have a chance. Do all this honestly as man to man, and by the time you come to ride old John, you’ll be able to do something more than sit on his back, and may feel his mouth with some stronger bridle than a red-tape one.

Just address a wider audience and substitute more modern concepts of diversity – race, sex, religion, orientation, ability, etc – for “the professions and the working classes”, and you have the seeds of a real solution. (When he says ” riding old John”, he means John Bull, as personification of the government or the nation, and isn’t talking about ruling individuals that way. I think.) And it’s fun! Become a better person just by making new friends – and listening to them. How pleasant a study is that?

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