A Glimpse of Normal
We finally experienced what we have been waiting for since COVID-19 entered our lives: A peep into a time before it happened. There is now hope for a maskless and Lysol-free future, in which we can gather with friends and family, go to concerts and sporting events, and travel again. It has been a relief, but a fleeting one. With the resurgence of a new variant, and a large percentage of Americans unwilling to get vaccinated, we are already backsliding. Instead of having “two Americas” just when it comes to race and class, we now also have that distinction between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. As disturbing as it all is, there’s something else even worse that has crept back into our lives without most noticing. There is a hint of the “normal” that doesn’t work for everyone again.
The only positive that came from this period was we thought we learned something about our society. We reassessed how we view people, what is important, and realized the pay gap degraded those who worked through the pandemic to keep America going.
Some embraced the need for change, but plenty did not.
We did what we tend to do after most tragedies. We yearned for things to be exactly as they were. Nothing better than what we remembered. During the break from the virus, we went straight back to worrying about things like as the stock market, housing prices and other trappings that consume our lives.
Now, we didn’t all do this. But the seismic shift we were supposed to experience as a result of all the past year’s events just hasn’t happened.
“As the United States rushes to get “back to normal,” there are some lessons learned from our time under lockdown that we should keep, and even build upon, to create a new normal – better than the one before,” said CNN reporter, producer and editor Melissa Mahtani. Last year, we slowed down to notice small things. We focused on what was going on around us politically with laser precision. We realized who we pick to be our leaders matters, from the grassroots level all the way to the top. Most importantly, we recognized injustice.
“Support for the Black Lives Matter movement soared last summer, but as the protests died down, so did the commitment,” said Joseph Williams, senior news editor of U.S. News & World Report. “Last spring, amid intense demands for racial justice after the police killing of George Floyd, a surge of white people showed interest in Black American history and literature, according to booksellers. They were heeding the call of Black Lives Matter movement leaders, who urged aspiring white allies to educate themselves before linking arms with protesters – and fill the coffers of Black-owned businesses in the process,”
That didn’t last because many people didn’t want to have a deeper conversation about real change.
Republicans jumped on this, as they always do when they see an opportunity to divide. They started criticizing Critical Race Theory and the 1619 Project.
The same can be said of socio-economic disparities that came to light with wall-to-wall coverage of evictions, job losses, child poverty, health care, living wages and daily injustices some people in this country endure. Just this weekend, an eviction moratorium was allowed to expire, which will lead to countless people being thrown out of their homes.
We all thought we made a vow to help. We cannot do this if we go back to the way things were. These issues are still with us. They didn’t go away because the media moved on to other topics. They weren’t solved or even dealt with, just swept under a rug of denial.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to return to a pre-Covid time and resume the activities we all engaged in prior to the pandemic, but we need the lesson.
We should never go back to a normal that didn’t work for everyone.
It’s past time to merely have conversations. There is an urgency in moving forward. We need to realize how much work is ahead.
“It seems conceivable that the 2022 midterms may be the last "free and fair" national elections in the United States — and given the Jim Crow Republicans' accelerating war on multiracial democracy, that prediction is generous,” warns Chauncey DeVega of Salon.
Like it or not, this is our new normal. A battle for democracy, fairness and real permanent change.
If we don’t make these necessary corrections, we won’t have to worry about the next pandemic. It won’t be a virus that ends our democracy. It will be us.