On March 30, 2018

Biding time until the end with Doc Martin

By Marguerite Jill Dye

Since beginning to write this weekly column I’ve paid keen attention to current events. I try to write about relevant themes with substance, inspiration, and integrity. I feel a sense of responsibility and have tried to keep up and stay aware through MSNBC, CNN, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and a variety of political magazines. But I must admit, my head is spinning. The stress, turmoil, and sense of harassment have left me feeling completely exhausted. It wasn’t nearly as bad as the flu, but the headaches, body aches, and upset tummies kept my husband Duane and me out of commission for well over a week. We slept for hours, then headed downstairs to nestle into our cozy, warm couches.

I’d heard about a BBC show and investigated it on the internet. We learned it’s available on Netflix so, at last, we signed up for a free month offer. At first, we viewed two “Doc Martin” movies, then started to stream the same TV series. Soon we discovered what binge watching is, while convalescing on our couches. As “Doc Martin” streamed, we began to relax, decompress, unwind, and forget.

It proved to be a welcomed relief, distracting us from our own aches and pains, but especially from our political malaise, a critical condition in this day and age. I began to realize how great a toll the past two years have taken on us.

Back in the old days, before our country went haywire, we could sleep at night. Now the news is monopolized, 24/7, by our unhinged leader. Our attention’s consumed by Trump’s morning tweets, constant chaos, and “shock events” – unexpected, confusing acts that destabilize a society. Now the whole world’s on high alert as nuclear war teeters on Twitter. And as if North Korea weren’t enough, Trump’s new national security advisor, John Bolton, is itching to declare war on Iran.

Lies are uttered more often than truths from the Oval Office and its costly outposts in Mar-A-Lago and Trump Tower. Our current leaders don’t give a hoot that our national debt has reached $1.3 trillion. But businessmen with bankruptcies often undermine the solvency of their latest endeavors. Folks may wonder why the staff’s been let go, but past performance predicts future behavior. Does “You’re fired!” ring a bell? The president’s just airing his television sequel.

But in America, corrupt intent is an impeachable offense. We’re on the verge of a constitutional crisis as Mueller’s investigation closes in.

In the “Doc Martin” series, the Doc Martin character was a renowned London surgeon until a troublesome phobia overtook him. One might say it’s his fatal flaw, although he obviously has a few more. That’s why he returned to the Cornish coast, where his childhood summers were spent on his aunt’s family farm outside the fictional Portwenn, a picturesque fishing village. Doc Martin came to set up office in the community clinic as its general practitioner. As villagers arrived at the “surgery” for treatment, we met Portwenn’s colorful population of nearly 1,000 inhabitants. Doc Martin only made house calls in case of emergency, which was a common occurrence in Portwenn. Along with Doc Martin, we entered the homes and lives of the very human characters. Their emotional depth was most engaging as they grappled with interpersonal relationships. Their garden variety neurosis, the occasional psychosis, and personality disorders only endeared them more to us.

Watching “Doc Martin” has helped me see how far we’ve strayed from normalcy. It’s startling to see how medical care is available to everyone, regardless of their economic means. It reminds me that here, habitually, those without means are often forgotten. Access and quality of America’s health care frequently depends on one’s income.

While kids in Cornwall were being treated for asthma, rashes, tonsillitis, and playground falls, I couldn’t help thinking of America’s children, being wounded or killed with AK-47s in repeated mass school shootings. But in spite of our discouragement, multitudes here and around the world joined the March for our Lives last weekend. Hallelujah to the students who possess the energy and passion to demand responsible action!

As bombs were exploding in Austin and hostages were taken in France, we were grateful to “Doc Martin” for capping our anxiety. With stunning sea views from cliffs all around, watching village life unfold, we preferred to enter the peace of Portwenn, a great prescription for the current instability.

Since its inception in 2004, a new series of “Doc Martin” has appeared every other year, but in the fall of 2018, its final series nine will air. The show is also on some PBS stations. An American remake, by the co-producer of “Friends,” is expected to begin in 2019. I hope it will capture the subtlety and innuendos of this British medical comedy drama, and that Duane and I will still discuss its characters’ relationships.

I’d planned to write a second column about Cambridge Analytica, the data analytics firm bought by Robert Mercer with the special intention of influencing elections. I’d written a column in April last year warning about psychometrics. I described how online “Big Five” personality tests with Facebook “likes” provided information that Cambridge Analytica required to interfere in our presidential election, as well as in Great Britain’s Brexit. They used psychological operations, “psyops,” also known as psychological warfare, used by the military to change mass sentiment or to “win the hearts and minds of men.” Trump hired the firm to target Americans with tailor-made messages and fake news posts against his opponent to help him win. The GOP hasn’t taken a stand, and I wonder how soon it will be revealed that Russia’s most secretive coup d’état didn’t take place on Russian soil.

I made an effort to mobilize and write about Russia’s Cambridge Analytica links. But when my headache returned, and for our own sanity’s sake, we curled up and nestled back into our cozy couches, surrendering to “Doc Martin’s” calming presence.

Marguerite Jill Dye is an artist and writer who divides her time between Vermont and Florida’s Gulf Coast.

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