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Returning to normal?

The definition of normal is: conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected.

We're hearing this word a lot lately, because the media is continually talking about "returning to normal" once we get past the COVID-19 pandemic. I feel conflicted when I think about this concept of returning to normal. Obviously, I'd like to not have to worry that people I care about, and the community at large, are getting sick. It'd be great for folks to go back to work who've been furloughed and students could resume their education at grade schools and colleges.

But normal, doesn't sound right to me, because returning to the way things were seems wrong. I've not been shy about dealing with anxiety in this blog and perhaps I'm someone who has an unhealthy obsession of thinking about dark things when I should be thinking of rainbows and puppies. Rainbows and puppies, after all, are real things in life and should bring us loads of joy. But what about climate change? What about the systemic racism and abuse of black/brown people in this country? We can point to instances within these last few months, even days, where a normal-ness in America doesn't mean the same thing to everyone.

Is it normal that minorities in this "land of the free" should have to fear the authority of police officers on a daily basis? That their right to even stand their ground, can get them arrested, beaten, and killed? In middle America Minnesota even. It's not just L.A. anymore folks, where the beating of Rodney King was caught on video for the whole world to see. Is issuing body-cams to police officers really proof of any progressive efforts to reform law enforcement? The King beating was 1991, nearly 30 years ago. The internet is full of body-cam footage and cell phone footage of officers abusing American citizens. Yet it is still so hard for individuals and families to get justice. It gave me hope that the officer in the Chicago killing of Laquan McDonald was convicted, but we're a long way from getting out of the tunnel.

Since the pandemic has kept so many cars off the road, planes out of the sky, and a number of factories closed, we've seen things in our environment that I didn't think would be possible in modern times. Noise pollution is down and we can hear things like the wind blowing and birds singing to one another. Vistas beyond city skylines are visible again, like the hills surrounding typically smog-choked Los Angeles. My family uses the car once or twice a week now, instead of three to four times a day. And I am happier because of all these things. It's better to not be stuck in traffic. It's more rewarding to sit on my porch and watch the birds come and go from our building's yard. We spent one evening observing a lighting storm together.

I like to be able to get on a plane and go places like everyone else. But what this crisis has taught me is that not every flight is worth the cost to our well-being and our planet. Not that we can go anywhere right now, but with a little imagination and a lot of time on your hands, you can find things in your local or regional area to do. I know it's not the same everywhere, but a lot of people don't have the money to fly off on vacation anyway. You don't have to go back too many generations to a time when all of this convenient travel and driving and consumption was a luxury, not an expectation, of life in America.

I'm not expecting to return to normal anytime soon. We just crested 100,000 COVID related deaths and we're not done yet. I miss my extended family. I miss laughing with my friends over a cold mug of beer. I miss going to a ball game. But I live a pretty privileged life. I read enough, and see enough, to know what is going on out there in the world. And for a lot of people, day-to-day life is much harder than what I am going through in quarantine. My heart hurts for those whose normal America, is a life or death struggle. And it makes me sick to think that my daughter's future on this planet will be dirtier and more unsafe than it is today.



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