Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The New Normal

The best and worst of times.
If a person is born into bondage, and is never exposed to anything other than bondage, they won’t know they are in bondage. Instead they will accept their condition as normal. Only one who has become set free will be able to look back into the time when they were imprisoned and know the difference. But this escape to emancipation presumes the person desires something better. “Something better” will remain a rational illusion⎯a hope, that will never get out of that box of hope unless the person accepts the possibility, however small, that the vision may have an element of worth and be reasonably likely.  Having a sense of being normal is a two edged sword: It may provide a sense of communion with others in the same condition but it does not hold out a carrot to a better way.

That is indeed a thorny conundrum, particularly when the very thought of normal is becoming abnormal. One of the few advantages of being old is a perspective that comes with the passage of time and changing circumstances. If you live long enough you’ll have lived through a range of circumstances that provides a frame of reference that is lacking without tenure, and that provides you with a memory of the way things could be, but aren’t.

Without expressing a cliche, the times in which we are living are unlike any within my lifetime. And I am not alone in that observation. Our times are an admixture of the best and the worst, much like Charles Dickens wrote of in his Tale Of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” On the one hand we are advancing so fast that the technology we create is obsolete as soon as it comes off the line. On the other hand we seem to be unraveling as a human society even faster.

Today, a political commentary appeared in the Huffington Post, that contained the following: “What used to be the lunatic fringe is now called the House of Representatives. And what used to be at least controversial is now the mainstream.” In just a flash of yesterdays, the emergence of a man as the presumptive candidate for the most powerful leader of the Western World would have seemed impossible. No longer. Now an entire political party champions a man who is an acknowledged pathological liar, peddler of vile racism, a misogynist, cheer leader of xenophobic ravings, and sneering trampler of those who disagree with him, not to mention our most fundamental American values.

The mood of the American public is, to put it in superlative terms, explosive. And, from a certain perspective, understandable when we consider how dysfunctional our cherished government has become. Time after time our elected officials have danced to a drummer of self-serving greed with little, if any, responsiveness to the wishes of the constituents who elected them. Now we almost expect another week (or day) of “normal” chaos, violence and behavior that used to be routinely unacceptable. And to add insult to injury, our elected officials are expert at one thing only: Nothing. And in consideration of such a state, it would be delusional to not expect anarchy. The new normal of today has become the abnormal of yesterday. And if it is true (and it is) that our tomorrows are the result of thoughts and actions taken today, it is terrifying what tomorrow will bring.
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