Sophia Rosenbaum, an editor at The Associated Press, wrote an opinion piece celebrating the Virus Regime and claiming that she doesn’t want to ever go back to normal life.
Why is The Associated Press even publishing this? What is their interest in shilling for the Virus Regime?
Everyone wants you back. It seems every day of this late-stage pandemic era is marked with someone wistfully talking about Normal: going back to you, starting new with you. It’s all about norms and normalcy. All about you.
As for me, I’m not so interested in Normal. I defer to Taylor Swift: We are never, ever, ever getting back together.
It felt normal to want Normal back at first. Last year, in those first months, daydreaming of you was a constant daily escape from all of the endless dire possibilities. I wanted my life back. I wanted the control.
It wasn’t just me. Over the last year, our obsession with normalcy has shown up on Google, with the highest spike in searches around mid-April 2020, when it seemed we might have been able to resume life as we once knew it.
Searching for normal went up again around the start of the school year in September and around the holidays in late November. But as the search trends show, these desires for normalcy ebb and flow, constantly fading and morphing.
The collective yearning for normalcy was panic-inducing early on, around the time President Donald Trump was vowing to reopen America by Easter 2020. So much had already changed. Yet it felt then that we might just go back to Normal with the snap of a finger.
By June, the pandemic’s staying power was more clear, and then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was saying, “We cannot go right back to normal. We need new routines.” Several months later, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott said, “We’ll begin to again turn the spigot once more and get back to whatever normal will be.”
By then, my brain was screaming: No way. Do others feel it, too, cringing every time new Normal, old Normal, any Normal is uttered? That to go back to you would mean we don’t question the ways things were, that we ignore the cracks that have been exposed, and that we forget the lessons — good and bad — that have been learned?
The experience of living through the yearlong aberration feels like the rapid-fire history verses of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” — condensed into one tumultuous year. The world shuts down, a racial reckoning, a divisive election. Loss after loss after loss. A previously unimaginable attack on the peaceful American transfer of power. A jittery inauguration. Multiple vaccines — and a glimpse of a world beyond the pandemic.
After living through all that, going back to Normal feels more and more like returning to a lover we just can’t seem to leave.
B.C., adaptability sometimes felt a lot different. It let us recover from jetlag and get used to a new time zone in days, sometimes hours. It let us move from the warming layered looks of winter to — unimaginably — a spaghetti-strap dress when the heat of summer comes. It’s turning a new house into a home.
The past year has given adaptability a new meaning. Many people have a new perspective of their capabilities. Impossible things became possible: Maintaining relationships online and enduring not seeing family and friends, or anyone, for extended periods of time. A whole crop of young people finding grace after being robbed of moments big and small. We got used to it. We normalized the unimaginable.
When we have a green light to start living life again, to enter a new Normal, what will we hold onto from this time? Will we really stay unbusy? Will we care more about work flexibility, employee protections, access to medical coverage? Will anti-racism efforts, once at the forefront of the zeitgeist, be prioritized or forgotten? Will mass shootings become the exception rather than a painful rule?
Will there be any systemic change?
Not likely, “Pandemic” author Sonia Shah said on a recent episode of John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight.”
“We usually go right back to business as usual as soon as the thing ends, as soon as we have a drug, as soon as we have a vaccine,” she said. “We don’t really do the fundamental social change.”
We’ve already experienced that. When life changed, there was a period of adjustment. It took a while to get used to it. Then we did. That’s happening again right now in the United States as more people are vaccinated and infection rates decrease. Already, the pulls of Normal are tugging.
For all the growth and change and adaptation that has happened in the past year, it is hard to even define what a post-pandemic normalcy might mean. The dictionary defines it simply as conforming to a standard — usual, typical, or expected. Is that really what we want? “If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be,” Maya Angelou once said.
Without Normal, the path forward is more open, the opportunities perhaps broader. What if there’s a whole lot of amazing that stands to be lost if Normal returns? What if, instead of banking on normalcy, we focused on that one-of-a-kind ability to adapt and evolve? Maybe that’s the way forward, instead of simply reconciling with what was and trying to recreate something that’s already had its day.
It’s too late, anyway. Remember, Normal: You and me, we already broke up.
With her ominous closing sentence, she implies that no matter what people want, the old normal is never coming back.
The entire point of her piece is to get a “perhaps it is for the best that the government has taken all of my rights away” cope into people’s head.
“Old Normal” means being able to leave your house when you want to, go to places, meet with friends and family, and interact with people like human beings are supposed to do, without having to ask the government for permission first.