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