The views expressed in this article are the views of the author.
There is an ongoing conversation about normalcy; about what is and is not, what should and should not be. We are undoubtedly living in uncharted territory, with more countries sinking into nationalism each day. This prompts the question, why are we so far off balance? Can we ever get back to normal? This has been an age-old cry from nostalgics, who claim that things were always better “back in my day.” You can see this everywhere: in popular culture, with the resurgence of popular 90s television shows and 80s fashion. It’s in sports where fans think back to when the rules and regulations were lighter and the game was more organic.
This nostalgia has even been ingrained into our politics. From Warren G. Harding’s Return to Normalcy campaign to the basic structure of the Republican party, all throughout politics, there seems to be an urge to return to a Golden Age of America; a rosier time where things weren’t so damn different.
If Trump has done one good thing in his candidacy and presidency, it is that he has completely exposed the truths about our society and our political systems. Whether intentional or accidental, he has taken advantage of a system that favors white conservative Christian men and imposed his will upon it. He has played upon the fears of many: the fear of change, of newness. Even his slogan, “Make America Great Again,” invokes a yearning for the past.
His rhetoric is a prime example of how he frames issues. For example, immigrants are fleeing war to seek asylum and start a life in the U.S. More immigrants can alter the demographics of the nation. So Trump attacks and belittles immigrants with every opportunity he gets and tells border patrol officers to turn migrants away.
Even on the left, there’s this idea of reverting back to business as usual; the belief that, once Trump leaves office, all the issues he’s caused will dissipate and everything will just snap back to normal. One phrase I used to hear often in small talk is, “I don’t really follow politics.” Once we elected Trump, we had to start to pay attention, whether for a class or for our own safety. But still, we wistfully long for the day that we can finally delete that CNN app, unfollow those news accounts on Twitter and go back to not really following the news.
I want to go in a different direction. I say, going back to normal cannot be an option. If we are to progress as a nation, we have to continue to press forward and change both politically and socially. Furthermore, I support radical change within our political systems. Our political system is antiquated and dysfunctional. There is no reset button. We have been exposed to glaring social and systematic problems dealing with finance, equality and sexuality, amongst a vast array of other problems.
The only way we can “come together as a nation” is to address the issues we have been avoiding for so long. We can no longer ignore what has been going on in our community, our state or our country. We need to remain engaged. We must have these tough conversations and provide solutions that help everyone.
Last month, I drafted an article entitled “The sad new normal,” where I criticized the U.S. government’s inaction on gun control. In it, I said that we need to be aware of what we see as normal. I want to take it a step further and say we need to change that normal. Daily mass shootings shouldn’t be normal. Extreme income inequalities shouldn’t be normal. Deadlocked congresses shouldn’t be normal. Political inaction shouldn’t be normal.
I know this sounds like a bid for a presidential run, but let me assure you, I’m not. I’m just optimistic for America’s future.
The way society and our government function are unacceptable, and we cannot afford to go backward. Moving forward is the only way to solve all the issues we are having. We must start having these tough conversations and being willing to let go of the past. We must start accepting others for who they are and what they believe. We must start to create a new “normal” to ensure we are building a progressive society, based on equality and understanding.