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Archive for August 2017

Hidden History of Cincinnati

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hiddenhistoryHidden History of Cincinnati

Jeff Suess

First link

It’s been a hell of a year.

Everything was humming along reasonably smoothly. I wasn’t actually writing a book blog any more, because marriage changed some of my priorities and the ways I used my time, and that was fine, but life was really going pretty darned well, and all the little problems that cropped up were well within my ability to cope.

Then came Wednesday, November 9, 2016.

Not Tuesday the 8th.  On Tuesday the 8th, I was happy and excited.  On top of all the other good things in my life, I was about to see the election of the first female president, a woman I had really come to admire during the course of the campaign.  But I never do manage to stay up late on election night, no matter how much I care about the outcome, and anyway, watching the returns was making my wife and I both nervous. “He’s going to win,” she kept saying, but I explained to her that no, that couldn’t happen, and even though the election season had been very strange and upsetting, there really weren’t enough votes in the United States to elect a man who was clearly self-centered, racist, sexist, and not very bright.  The news, I assured her, were just trying to create a sense of suspense, so we’d all stay up and watch more commercials.

So it was the next morning when everything fell apart. At first, when I woke up and my wife told me, “He won,” I couldn’t understand what she was saying.  Then I didn’t believe her.  And then, I was devastated.  Not just because of the damage that was going to be done, but because this meant that there really were enough votes to elect him, and that meant that my country was a lot worse than I had given it credit for.

Since then, every day’s news seems to bring some fresh awfulness, and it’s all taking a toll on my mental health. And my physical health, too – I’ve gained fifteen pounds and a pain in my back, and I don’t sleep as well as I used to.

I can’t fix any of this. I have one vote, and I intend to use it. I have some money I can donate to those who are harmed, to try to help. But, like everyone else, I’m going to have to wait this out, and tend my own garden.

So maybe it’s time to spend less time staring at Twitter and feeling angry and helpless.  Maybe it’s time to turn my attention elsewhere.

For me, that elsewhere might just be books from, and about, the world before all this happened.  Reminders that humans have a long and complicated history, and we’ve come through hard times before.

I’m interested, right now, in the way a book can lead a person to another book, in a chain that keeps going in unexpected directions.  I’m interested in deliberately creating and following that chain.  I’m going to start right here, at a book I picked up at the Mercantile Library this weekend, a collection of stories from Cincinnati’s history. Why not? One starting point is as good as any other.

The beginning chapters were a reminder of how European-Americans like me came to settle this land, by killing or exiling the Shawnee and Miami people who used to live here.  I looked them up, and the Shawnee and Miami live in Oklahoma now.  It’s helpful to remember that the United States is a country built on the foundations of violent racism.  Is it amazing that racism is still a problem?  What’s amazing is that so much of the history of the country has been the story of white people who were trying to do better, trying, with varying degrees of success and failure, to stop treating people as things, and to persuade or force others to stop, too.

Anyway, I like the section on the nineteenth century better.  The chapter that caught my eye was chapter 14, “The Eclectic John Uri Lloyd.”  I had certainly heard Lloyd’s name before, and I’ve even had one visit to the Lloyd Library, a strange and beautiful place dedicated to the history of plant-based medicine.  However, I didn’t know anything about him.  From this book, I learned a little about Lloyd, and the school of Eclectic Medicine.  He didn’t have all the information he needed to do really excellent medicine, but he did look around him and see that a lot of nineteenth-century medicine was doing more harm than good, and bloodletting and mercury weren’t actually fixing people.  Lloyd and his colleagues set up a parallel path of medicine, focused on the use of plants to treat illness. It was the ‘holistic medicine’ of days gone by, doctors searching for anything that worked without doing harm. They weren’t right all the time, but they were trying. And even though they eventually died off as a movement, the library is still there, the collection of current and historic materials still used by people who are trying.

Maybe there’s something there for me, living through these troubling times. I got this book at the Mercantile Library, established when slavery was still the law of the land, to help people educate themselves who hadn’t had the privilege of formal education.  I read about a man who lived right through the Civil War, fought to end that dreadful practice. Progress is much, much too slow, but all the time, there are always people trying.

I also learned, from this chapter, that Lloyd wrote a very strange fantasy novel, called Etidorhpa, or, the end of the earth: the strange history of a mysterious being and the account of a remarkable journey. Project Gutenberg seems to have a copy, so I’m going to read it, the next book in the chain.

Next Link: Etidorhpa

 

 

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Written by Contented Reader

August 28, 2017 at 7:29 am

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