Saturday, January 14, 2017

What Is Normal?

I’m so tired of hearing pundits and others talk about the process of normalizing president-elect Donald Trump.  The word normalization means “to bring (someone or something) back to a usual or expected state or condition.”  Donald Trump, some say, is not usual, not normal, and not what we expect of a president-elect.  What’s normal?  The word normal means “usual or ordinary:  not strange.”  It is also used to suggest that someone is “mentally and physically healthy.” Therefore, given this definition, we must concede to reality: “To more than six million of our fellow Americans,” as Katy Waldman writes, “Donald Trump is normal, even if it’s painful to admit that.” 

Waldman suggests that Donald Trump “inverted the meaning of normal…bringing the fringe into the mainstream and expelling the elites to the margins,” thereby making “America great again,” or bringing America back to what is supposed by more than six million Americans to be the normal. “Trump,” she continues, “resembles Richard Nixon, who petitioned a “silent majority” of Americans to reassert their values during the turmoil of the late 1960’s.”  James Taranto in the Wall Street Journal, suggested that Trump also “evokes Warren G. Harding, who campaigned for president in 1920 on the slogan “return to normalcy.”  Both slogans, like “make America great again” implied a rejection of the upheavals reshaping U.S. society in those times.  “They were,” writes Waldman, “conservative anthems, hostile to demographics newly empowered by the Great War (in Harding’s case) and emboldened by the women’s and civil rights movements (in Nixon’s).”  Trump’s slogan was a rebuke (in my opinion) of the last 60 years or more of progress in creating a more perfect union.  62,979,879 Americans thought Trump represented what they think should be normal; 65,844,954 Americans thought normal meant something else.  Can there be two “normals”?  It would seem that there are.

Some pundits have continually suggested that perhaps all of us ought to “clear the slate” of all that Mr. Trump has said (while Dan Rather tells us, “The rhetoric is the candidate”) and give him a fresh new slate as he becomes the 45th president of the United States. I tried this for several weeks and have come to the conclusion that what is normal for Mr. Trump and his supporters is not normal for me. Kellyanne Conway suggests that 65,844,954 of us are being “sour grapes” and that it is now time for us to unite as a nation and “make America great again.”  But what do we do when our standards of normal do not match up?

No doubt you have heard this scripture passage: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, and my ways are not your ways, saith the Lord.”  With John Lewis, and with a majority of the American people, I must say to Mr. Trump and his supporters, “I’m sorry, but my thoughts are not your thoughts and my ways are not your ways, and I will do everything I can to de-normalize  what you claim is normal.”

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