Not long after the pandemic became accepted as a real thing among those tuned into the reality station, the word ‘normal’ started cropping up quite a bit in stories and conversations dealing with the topic of what is supposed to come next. There was — and still is — this yearning to return to solid ground. So supposedly, whenever we return to ‘normal’, then we will all be back on solid ground and all will be right with the world.
Because what could possibly be better than that?
Well, once upon a time, slavery was normal. Of course, I would argue that it wasn’t so normal for the slaves, but it was pretty normal for most of the white folks because they possessed the power to define it. Even for those who thoroughly opposed the practice, like John Brown, slavery was still the way things were.
Hitler’s Germany was normal for Hitler, just not normal for the Jews. The Khmer Rouge regime, responsible for the killing of more than 1 million Cambodians during their 4-year reign of terror from 1975 until 1979, probably thought they were establishing a new normal that felt perfectly fine for them. For those who didn’t quite fit into the new normal, they were dumped into the killing fields.
Normal is defined by those who decide to declare a particular situation normal. Whether they are those with the fate of nations in their power, or individual heads of household, the characteristics of normalcy are fluid. Its shape is totally dependent on whose hands are shaping the clay.
Normal is what you make it. Which is why I would argue that the idea of going ‘back to normal’ would probably be one of the worst mistakes we could ever make as a country. Do we really want to go back to Derek Chauvin’s America, where he figured there would be no repercussions for murdering a handcuffed Black man by kneeling on that man’s neck for more than 9 minutes in broad daylight in front of witnesses? Or to the America of January 6, where white supremacy felt free to attack the nation’s capitol in broad daylight with the full-throated support of the President of the United States?
To an America home to millions of delusional Americans who honestly believe that the death of more than 500,000 of their fellow citizens in one year is all part of a massive hoax designed to steal their freedom?
Every so often in history — but not that often — a door will open in front of us. But that door doesn’t stay open for long, and it doesn’t open wide. It’s not a door leading to solid ground, because there is no such thing. The ground beneath us is always shifting, whether you feel it or not. And it’s not leading back to normal, because that door is behind us and it’s closed.
It’s a door that leads not necessarily to what is next, but to what can be next. It’s a choice, and like all choices it’s not a certainty nor is it guaranteed. It’s a chance to take the next step up or to keep spinning and churning in place.
It’s a chance to reach for something better. A chance to evolve.