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What is considered normal these days? In 2020,

What is considered normal these days? In 2020, it can be difficult to tell. Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto/Yulia Sutyagina

In lieu of Republicans adopting a party platform for 2020, President Donald Trump campaign's announced a set of 50 priorities last week including one that read, "Return to Normal by 2021."

It's a perfect expression of Trumpian nostalgia for the America that exists in his 1950s-fueled imagination and in those of some of his followers. And it's a notion that's bound to be comforting to the tempest-tossed.

But what really is normal these days?

I don't mean this as a setup for commentary on the president's words and behavior. This is a more profound inquiry. What is normal and is it something we should seek?

The word implies calmness and placidity and constancy, but that's not our steady state, not now nor at any time in our recent past. Normal in America these days is crisis.

The coronavirus pandemic, increasingly intense storms, destructive wildfires, the heartbreakingly endless struggle for racial justice, the tattered economy, opioid addiction, all significant crises on their own, none going away, many intersecting, all of them rattling our lives, each awaiting whoever wins the White House. Crisis is our normal, has been our normal, and likely will be our normal for some time. Unless we finally act to combat the forces buffeting our country. 

We know the virus has been having its way with us. We're closing in on 200,000 Americans dead and the expected fall resurgence hasn't started. Saying the virus is under control and things are getting better and "haven't we managed it beautifully" doesn’t make any of it so. Only following the science and relentlessly taking the steps we all know are necessary will do that.

We know storms are getting worse. Like Hurricane Laura, many grow far stronger far more quickly than in years past and are no longer 100-year storms. They're every-year storms. And as California's wildfires, fueled by drought and record heat, continue to chew up the landscape, residents are being told to park their cars facing out of their driveways in case they need to leave in a hurry. Calling what’s happening to our climate just the cyclical nature of weather does nothing to solve these problems. Only taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will do that.

We know Black men continue to be killed by police, and much of the nation convulses again and again. Saying you sympathize and that you also support the police does nothing to solve the problem of Black men being killed. Only taking actual steps to stop the killings does that.

We know the economy is staggering, businesses have been closing, people are still out of work, and help has dried up. Saying the stock market is roaring and we're on the road to recovery doesn't make it so. Passing legislation to put money in people's pockets and making systemic changes to make them less vulnerable does that.

We know addiction continues to ravage our nation, silently claiming lives and destroying families. Citing the statistics and expressing solidarity does nothing to end this scourge. Only delivering actual help and addressing the root causes does that.

And we know how all of these are intertwined, how the virus has wrecked the economy which has worsened addiction, how furious storms send people to shelters now less safe because of the virus, how firefighters are overextended without the usual help of California's renowned inmate fire crews hit hard by COVID-19 in their prisons, how systemic racism has been exposed by the killings and the virus and our changing climate.

So normal also is that we continue not to do what must be done to change that. That, too, is a crisis.

Perhaps we should try abnormal. 

Michael Dobie is a member of Newsday's editorial board.

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