Is this the new nor­mal? Not if I can help it

The Denver Post - - OPINION - By Dot­tie Lamm Dot­tie Lamm (dolamm59@ is a for­mer first lady of Colorado.

Ifear I have been sleep­ing. Al­though the elec­tion of Don­ald Trump is only six weeks past, I seem to be ad­just­ing to the “new nor­mal.”

I watch the nightly news for the pres­i­dent-elect’s lat­est Cabi­net choice, sigh, then turn my at­ten­tion else­where, as if I were watch­ing events in an­other coun­try.

Then a per­son from an­other coun­try, Nige­rian writer Chi­ma­manda Ngozi Adichie, pub­lishes an ar­ti­cle In The New Yorker that wakes me up from my post-elec­tion slum­ber. The ar­ti­cle is ti­tled “Now Is the Time to Talk About What We Are Ac­tu­ally Talk­ing About.” Here are just a few of her salient wake-up points:

• “[I]n re­sponse to this [elec­tion] there are peo­ple liv­ing in vis­ceral fear, peo­ple anx­iously try­ing to dis­cern pol­icy from blus­ter … .”

• “Things that were re­cently pushed to the cor­ners of Amer­ica’s po­lit­i­cal space — overt racism, glar­ing misog­yny, anti-in­tel­lec­tu­al­ism — are once again creep­ing to the cen­ter.”

• “Iden­tity pol­i­tics” has come to be as­so­ci­ated with mi­nori­ties, and of­ten with a pa­tron­iz­ing un­der­cur­rent … . [Yet] White Amer­i­cans have prac­ticed iden­tity pol­i­tics since the in­cep­tion of Amer­ica, but it is now laid bare, im­pos­si­ble to evade.”

Why have I, at least par­tially, evaded the in­creased ve­nial­ity of some in my “tribe”?

Af­ter all, I have read that nationally, hate crimes against Mus­lim Amer­i­cans have grown to the high­est num­ber since right af­ter the 9/11 at­tack, and that lo­cally, the Aurora po­lice have re­ported at least nine hate-in­spired in­ci­dents against AfricanAmer­i­cans in the first weeks since the elec­tion. “Peo­ple are scared,” one res­i­dent told The Den­ver Post af­ter her door had been sprayed with racial slurs.

And I heard Denise Maes, pub­lic pol­icy di­rec­tor of the Colorado ACLU, say at a Nov. 29 town hall meet­ing in Den­ver that more than 500 peo­ple called the ACLU in the two days af­ter the elec­tion fear­ing for their civil rights or with of­fers to help pro­tect the rights of oth­ers.

So even be­fore the In­au­gu­ra­tion of Don­ald Trump, I am learn­ing that there is an in­her­ent dan­ger in just the rhetor­i­cal tone of the new ad­min­is­tra­tion. And that that tone frees peo­ple up to act on their worst in­stincts.

Yet, I am heart­ened to read some of the re­as­sur­ances from ac­tivists and pub­lic of­fi­cials that came out of the Nov. 29 town hall meet­ing, as sum­ma­rized by Den­ver District At­tor­ney-elect Beth McCann:

• Maes, from the ACLU, said that re­gard­less of what the fed­eral gov­ern­ment does or does not do on immigration, we must make sure that Colorado re­mains a safe place for all of us to live. There will be no walls and no one should live in the shad­ows.

• Laura Rein­sch, po­lit­i­cal di­rec­tor for One Colorado, said, “Colorado’s laws are stronger — or of­fer greater pro­tec­tions for LGBTQ Coloradans — than on the fed­eral level. Our state’s an­tibul­ly­ing and non-dis­crim­i­na­tion laws cover sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion and gen­der iden­tity.”

• And Scott Levin, re­gional di­rec­tor of the Anti-Defama­tion League, said: “The ADL fights to stop defama­tion and to se­cure jus­tice and fair treat­ment to all.” Levin spoke par­tic­u­larly to the ef­forts of No Place for Hate, an ADL spon­sored K-12 ini­tia­tive to cre­ate a com­mu­nity of in­clu­sion and re­spect in schools.

Al­most 200 peo­ple at­tended this meet­ing. Cap­i­tal­iz­ing on the crowd’s con­cerns and its ea­ger­ness for ac­tion, Maes, Rein­sch and Levin en­cour­aged all to get in­volved with civil rights or­ga­ni­za­tions.

In her New Yorker ar­ti­cle, Adichie closed with this plea: “Ev­ery pre­cious ideal must be re­it­er­ated, ev­ery ob­vi­ous ar­gu­ment made, be­cause an ugly idea left un­chal­lenged be­gins to turn the color of nor­mal. It does not have to be like this.” No, it does not. Now fully awake, I vow to do all I can to see that such ugly ideas and the attacks they gen­er­ate do not be­come the “new nor­mal.”

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