“THIS IS not normal.”
Anyone who spends time on social media or cable news has certainly heard or read that phrase. Of course, it refers to the deteriorating presidency of Donald Trump: his predawn Twitter rants against the media and other perceived enemies; open disdain for the Constitution; a cabinet of malicious incompetents; and his grifter’s eye for using his position for personal enrichment and turning Americans into his own ATM — Always Taxpayers’ Money.
It’s a natural response to what has been an unnatural era since Trump was sworn in as the 45th president, yet this too conveniently ignores an indisputable fact: America has never been normal.
Independence declared while subjugating others was not normal.
Slaughtering a race of people and nearly eradicating a culture that existed on this land long before white people in funny hats landed here was not normal.
Slavery, and its vile cultural and political echoes, were and are not normal.
Men determined to seize control of women’s reproductive rights is not normal.
A 241-year-old nation that has never elected a woman, a Jew, Latino, or Asian as president is not normal.
Leaders who adapt the chilling line from George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” — “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others” — as a governing principle is not normal.
Treating health care, housing, and good schools as a privilege for the few and not a right for all is not normal.
Criminalizing and demonizing those who practice a particular religion is not normal.
Forgetting about soldiers still in harm’s way and ignoring the great debt owed to our veterans is not normal.
Fearing and distrusting those sworn to serve and protect is not normal.
With police killing, without accountabilty, so many people of color that such fear and distrust is wholly justified is not normal.
Branding as “illegal” those who come to this country undocumented to escape persecution or seek a better life is not normal.
Tearing apart families through deportation without any legal recourse is not normal.
Allowing elected officials to get away with treating our democracy as a theocracy is not normal.
Any American city or town with water too polluted to drink is not normal.
That high-ranking pharmaceutical company officials and complicit doctors aren’t spending decades behind bars for promoting as safe drugs they knew to be highly addictive is not normal.
More than 59,000 people dead from opioid overdoses in 2016 — the most recorded in a single year — is not normal.
America having more incarcerated people than any nation in the world is not normal.
Hiding behind the Second Amendment as thousands of men, women, and children are lost to gun violence every year is not normal.
Failing to enact even the most basic gun-control measures, after 20 elementary school kids and six of their educators were murdered in 2012, is not normal.
Condemning a foreign terror threat while ignoring the insidious threat of too many angry men with too many guns is not normal.
Neglecting the epidemic of domestic violence is not normal.
To be outraged by long-festering inequities because they’re now threatening you and not “them” is not normal.
None of this lets Trump off the hook. His presidency is a catastrophe. He is attacking institutions and dangerously weaponizing his supporters to defend him from his detractors, especially journalists. Still, it’s easier to behave as if Trump’s malevolence is distorting us rather than recognize that he is exploiting the avarice, bigotry, and misogyny set deep in the marrow of this country from its beginnings. For centuries, a malignancy has existed in America. Our inability or unwillingness to carve it out allowed Trump to encourage it to metastasize.
And that is not normal.