Siege Diaries 10/19/2020


Today’s Daily Stoic Journal Prompt:  Which good habit can I use today to drive out a bad one?

Reading the associated Daily Stoic meditation today, I’m struck again at how much the medieval concept of virtues as cures for vices owes to the Stoics.  Of course, I already knew that the four cardinal virtues were closely related to the four Stoic virtues, but today’s entries make it clear that it goes further.  This may be part of why the medieval concept of the virtues–particularly, for me, those four cardinal virtues–has always rang true for me;  it’s that heritage of the Stoic approach I first encountered as a classics major.
So, how about the specifics on this one?   One thing I noticed early in the pandemic is that I had almost completely stopped picking my fingers, a bad habit (and probably a form of OCD or a related issue) that I’ve been doing since I was very little.  Why?  In those early days, I was washing my hands constantly, even though I was barely leaving the house, and I was very conscious about touching my face.  Now, as the understanding of the virus has evolved, I’m not obsessing over hand washing or face touching while at home, and, unfortunately, I’m back to the finger picking–although the severity does seem to have declined.  In this case, what I may need to do is to combine mindfulness with some other kind of “fidget” that provides a sensory stimulus to my fingers–not necessarily a “good” habit, but certainly a less damaging one.

Evening:  I think one of my worst habits is to believe that I do not matter in the world.  I have a voice, and I can use it.   And so, I write.

A CBC article today by Stephen Strauss provoked a rather strong reaction in me.  For those who do not want to follow the link, the gist of the article was that Strauss, who is a US citizen who came to Canada during the Vietnam War, would not be voting in the upcoming election because he no longer feels a connection to the US and thinks they should solve their own damn problems.   He goes on to say that he considers himself a Canadian now, and feels as if voting would be a kind of treason against his country of choice.

“The U.S. must save itself, or not – without any guidance, help, advice or direction from this Canadian,” he concludes.

I have a different conception of what it means to be Canadian.  Like Strauss, I am feeling increasingly alienated from the country of my birth, to the point I have said before I consider myself to be an exile.  But I am much more like those political refugees who continue to work to improve conditions in their home countries, even after they have long since taken up the identity of Canadian.  To be blunt, his is a stereotypically American attitude–it’s not Canadian at all.  Canada has, in recent years, when it is at its best, been known as a humanitarian nation, one that does not espouse a zero-sum game.  The United States is Canada’s nearest neighbour–and as it’s so often said, when the US sneezes, Canada catches a cold.  If you had a chance to do something to prevent the continued advance of an increasingly authoritarian, nationalist, and profoundly unequal country on your southern border, wouldn’t you do anything you could to stop it?  This isn’t even a question for me.  Perhaps Strauss no longer has friends or family in the US.  Perhaps he knows no women that might be impacted by the overturn of Roe v. Wade.  Perhaps he knows no trans folk who might be denied medical treatment simply because of who they are. Perhaps he thinks it’s perfectly OK that the US government only half-heartedly supports the scientists working a breakneck speed to develop a vaccine for SARS-COV2.   Doesn’t impact Canada, so just shut the borders and hope we survive?

I am voting in the US election precisely because I am a Canadian.  Racial injustice in the US impacts racial injustice in Canada.  Income inequality in the US impacts Canada as well.  And the toll of the pandemic will be greater in Canada the greater it is in the US–if only because our local tinfoil hat-wearing, anti-mask, yellow vest gang will take heart from their neighbours to the south and cause more trouble here.

Yes, one vote will not turn the tide of an election–but the side that is trying to discourage you from voting is the one that hopes you will be so disheartened that they will be able to get their way unchecked by law and custom alike.

I have voted in every single regular election I have had the right to vote in, in both the US and Canada.  That is a right I will never throw away.