Why Be Normal?

By Gary Dickson

I’m not sure when I gave up on normal.

It could have been shortly after I realized this country had elected Donald Trump as its president. It could have been after reading the numerous social media comments by friends who couldn’t see the dangerousness Trump posed — their blind allegiance to a racist, former reality TV host and admitted sexual predator. Maybe it was the various international treaties and agreements he had threatened to cancel or had America drop out of making this country an embarrassment on the world stage. 

It could have been Trump’s open pandering to authoritarian dictators or calling white nationalists “fine people”. I think it possibly had something to do with his open profiting financially from his office; as well as his family members’ profiting financially from his office. 

And then there were the president’s lies. Countless lies. Hundreds of lies during the first year of his administration. Still hundreds more during the second year. And now perhaps more than a thousand purposefully stated mistruths by the person holding the highest office in the land. Yet the sonofabitch doesn’t bat an eye or speak a word of remorse. He just keeps churning out more falsehoods.

I thought that once November came this country could get rid of Trump. Vote him out. Vote out the regressive Republicans in the Senate. And in the House. He was being investigated for misusing his office, for appealing to another country to investigate the son of former Vice President Biden. He tried to withhold previously promised monetary support from Ukraine if they didn’t investigate Biden’s son for alleged shady business dealings.

I was fairly certain the people who voted for him in 2016 would wake up and get smart about this guy. They’d figure out how much he’d lied, how he led them down the path to financial ruin. That the U.S. had become the laughing stock in international circles. For sure they’d see how Trump and his family were profiting financially from him being in office.

Maybe we could start repairing the severe damage Trump and his associates have done to our country after this November. The repair would be slow, as would the healing of the great rift between people: between friends, family, co-workers, racial groups, economic classes, and geographic areas. We’d all start getting back to “normal” again.

Of course, Trump was investigated by the U.S. House of Representatives and impeached. But he survived that in a Senate trial that was rigged in his favor by the Senate Majority Leader.

His reputation was sullied and will continue to be sullied. He’ll always be known as just the third president in the history of the United States to be impeached. Except that didn’t slow him down. Now Trump was free to start exacting revenge against those who he considered to be traitors. He began firing inspectors general as well as those who had testified against him in the House hearings. All along Trump claimed he was the victim. The “Fake News Media”, the Democrats, and the Deep State had been out to get him throughout his first three years as president. And his lies and mistruths and attempts to change reality continued. It is true-to-form for a sociopath.

In March, along came the coronavirus. Trump minimized and denied its potential in the U.S. He said it would magically go away. He said the administration had a handle on it. He was wrong. 

The coronavirus, or Covid-19, gained notice as it hit a nursing home in Washington. We knew how many thousands of people in China and elsewhere the virus had killed, but Trump told reporters that “We’ve got a handle on it.” In actuality, the president didn’t have a handle on anything — especially how to marshal the medical forces, supplies, logistics, corral the disease, calm the country, and guide and encourage citizens through the fight against the pandemic. 

Trump could not manage the fight, so he pushed responsibility on to the states, saying it was their responsibility all along. Different state governors attempted to turn to the federal government for help when they had difficulty obtaining enough intensive care equipment like respirators for patients and personal protective equipment (PPE) and and for their front-line medical workers, first responders, and emergency personnel. But Trump told them the federal government was not a supply depot and that they needed to fend for themselves. So when states tried to purchase PPE and respirators on the open market they discovered they had to bid against a deep-pocketed competitor: the U.S. government. The federal government drove the prices up higher and higher forcing the states to pay exorbitant prices for equipment, if the feds didn’t already buy it first. 

Infections and deaths of patients, as well as front-line medical workers have continued to increase steadily. Today we are approaching 100,000 deaths due to the coronavirus in this country. Health officials say that number is low because it doesn’t count those who weren’t officially diagnosed with Covid-19 or died of a secondary ailment. So the true figure is something like 135,000 deaths. 

Starting in March, the coronavirus had caused lock-downs in nearly all the states. Businesses, schools, colleges, churches, and public agencies were closed. People, especially those over 60 with underlying health problems, stayed home. Pretty soon they were joined by the other adults and children who had to isolate in order to protect themselves. Work and school studies continued from home through computers and the Internet. We all learned to cope. We wore facemasks if we went out. We learned to limit our trips to the grocery store to once a week, if not less frequently. Grocery stores and places like Target and Walmart ran out of hand sanitizer, Clorox Wipes, toilet paper, paper towels, meat, flour, etc. People were shamed on social media if they were discovered buying up all of some important item, like toilet paper, hamburger, paper towels.

More and more, the media, politicians, entertainers, and all of us began talking about the “New Normal.” This was catchphrase for life after the coronavirus. We wondered how would things be? Would we always have to socially distance from one another? Did this mean we never should shake hands or hug one another again? Would schools and colleges be mostly taught online? Will I be spending part or all of my work week working from home on my computer? What about group activities, like concerts, plays, sporting events, church services, weddings, funerals, and graduations? We’ve been wrestling with these questions and others, like how to conduct business in a somewhat normal fashion. 

Some people grew impatient. They weren’t accustomed to having to delay the gratification of what they’d come to see as inalienable rights: pedicures, hair cuts, going to the coffee shop, meeting friends at the bar, going to the beach, attending concerts, going to church services, and going out to dinner at a restaurant. Some states started opening up certain businesses in an effort to get their economies up and running again. But this impatience to quickly get everything back to normal is likely to come with a steep price in the form of human lives. Already states and communities where coronavirus infections had significantly declined or in those where infections and fatalities were relatively minimal were starting to see a troubling increase again in both infections and deaths. And yet the governors of these states push on with continued business openings, even as the infection and death rates are climbing again.

A lot of the opening up of business in the country is due to pressure by Donald Trump and a couple of his economic advisors. Unemployment figures are at an extremely high number, likely hitting 25 percent by the next reporting date. Trump probably is experiencing panic as the country lurches towards the date where there will be just six months until the 2020 election. Poll figures put Trump in an unfavorable place behind Joe Biden. Most of the country believes he has not done a good job with the coronavirus. Although the stock market is staying up, unemployment, which actually does not measure everyone unemployed, is heading up and up. The Trump administration has received unfavorable publicity about rich corporations receiving economic stimulus money that was only supposed to go to small businesses. The House of Representatives has passed another economic stimulus plan that would provide people with additional financial assistance plus financial help for state and local governments. But the Republican-controlled Senate has yet to take up the bill which is being held up by the Senate Majority Leader. Trump has called the House bill “Dead on arrival.” 

Lately I’ve given up watching any cable TV news. Seeing and hearing Trump’s lies and vile comments only makes me more agitated. I just go with the local 6:00 or 10:00 p.m. news. Even then I just sigh and shake my head at the ignorance I hear from national policy makers and law makers. I shake my head again at the far right protesters whining because they don’t want to wear a facemask, thinking that they are the only ones on the planet. They want the freedom to die from the coronavirus.

Heck, yeah! I say. Give them freedom and give them the coronavirus.  

And while I’m at it, the hell with the “New Normal”! Actually, I’m not too fond of the old normal, either.

In fact, why be normal at all?

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