On (Not) Getting Back to "Normal" by Dean Gloster


            Beware messengers with interesting news.

            We arrive at your gates, bringing a whiff of those two exotic spices, change and uncertainty, and you can hear us announced by the creak of your walls as the ground shifts and your foundations become less certain.


I bring interesting news.

I’m supposed to go on, this month, about getting back to normal life, but I’m a writer. Years ago I climbed into this unwieldy kayak of dreams and pushed off that shore for good.

And, really, what is “normal” except a setting on the washing machine, with the arbitrary choice of a 50-minute wash cycle?

As you read this, you’re on a gorgeous blue ball rotating on its axis at what would be supersonic speeds if it wasn’t dragging the atmosphere with it, hurtling around the sun at 67,000 miles an hour, part of a vast spiral of stars spinning toward a collision with the Andromeda galaxy.

            You might call it normal, but it sounds to me like an adventurous, epic journey.

            Let’s carry that enthusiasm, please, into what comes next. Because it’s going to be…interesting.

            We’re not going back to our prior normal after this pandemic. Sorry. Especially here in the U.S. We’ve gotten a glimpse of something we can’t un-see. Like our protagonists, we’ll be changed by our difficult experience.

            The next part of this is hard to write, and maybe to read, because I’m going to be honest, which isn’t pretty, but I promise I’ll try to leave us in a better place at the end.

            The U.S., with just over 4% of the world’s population, has over 20% of the world’s Covid-19 deaths.

Our alleged president assured us that it was “only 15 cases and it will soon go down to zero” but now over 7 million Americans have contracted Covid-19, and over 205,000 of us have died. Our alleged president assured us it was “just like the flu” but it’s between 50 and 500 times as deadly as the 2006 H1N1 influenza. And now we’ve learned that when he was reassuring us, our alleged president was telling a journalist that he was just “always playing it down” and that he knew it would be spectacularly deadly. That he knew it was airborne.

Now we know. The CDC director says the most important ways to stop Covid-19 are not the coming possible vaccines, but rather masking and social distancing—at a time when the alleged president is promoting mass rallies without masks or social distancing.

What’s the response of this administration? Like lots of writers, I don’t have a formal employer, so I get my health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, despite my age and pre-existing conditions. In November, this administration is seeking to terminate my insurance—along with 30 million other Americans—in a case argued in the Supreme Court. With no replacement program in place.

Heart-breakingly, the coronavirus has disproportionately affected black people, brown people, old people, previously sick people. The vulnerable. Those who count the least in a culture that fetishizes luck and birth and privilege. In a country whose ethical spine is partially bent by the Calvinistic notion that people lucky at birth are favored by God, we have some additional difficulties in responding appropriately to a public health crisis that disproportionately effects the vulnerable.

I hope—I pray—that we will not go back to normal. Because the lightning flash of this pandemic has illuminated some horrible things about our country that need to be fixed and that need not to be forgotten.

Racism. Inequality. Divisions. Lack of health insurance provided other than through an employer—a particular weakness as jobs contract. At least one political party completely out of touch with the needs of almost all Americans.

It’s hard. I struggle with depression, so I try to be especially careful around things that lead to depressive cognitions, and this is one of those.

I love this country. I love what’s best about it. A country hatched in the toxic racism of a founding document that counted black slaves at 3/5ths of a person, which still found its way to the soaring aspiration of the Fourteenth Amendment, which demands that we give all people equal protection of the law.

But yesterday, five GOP Representatives—Gaetz (FL) Gohmert (TX) Higgins (LA) Steve King (IA) and Massie (KY) voted against a House resolution calling for a peaceful and orderly transition of power to whoever wins the next election, as called for by the Constitution. And last night, when asked to condemn white supremacist armed militias our alleged president did not, and instead asked the Proud Boys to “stand by.”

So when Trump and his regime are voted out in November—and they will be, if we turn out the vote—please: Make this glimpse of deadly racism, ageism, and dysfunctional authoritarian white supremacy mean something.

Make it a call to change, to fix, to reshape, and to heal. Don’t go back to normal. Let’s all move forward instead—into fairer, safer, healthier, more decent.

That would be interesting.

 Dean Gloster has an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. He is a former stand-up comedian and a former law clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court. His debut YA novel DESSERT FIRST is out from Merit Press/Simon Pulse. School Library Journal called it “a sweet, sorrowful, and simply divine debut novel that teens will be sinking their teeth into. This wonderful story…will be a hit with fans of John Green's The Fault in Our Stars and Jesse Andrews's Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.” His current novel is about two funny brothers who have to team up with their friend Claire to save the world. It has all the usual Dean Gloster novel ingredients: Death, humor, the question of whether it’s possible to save someone, a love interest to root for, dysfunctional parenting, and a slightly off-kilter sensibility. Also a mergers and acquisitions lawyer dad who is missing 57 percent of his soul.


When Dean is not studying Aikido or downhill ski racing—and, let’s face it, there’s less of that now—he’s on Twitter: @deangloster


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