Nothing About the Trump Presidency is Normal. Keep Remembering That – Francine Prose | The Guardian UK

Nothing About the Trump Presidency is Normal. Keep Remembering That

 Francine Prose | The Guardian UK

In the past six months most – if not all – of us have gone on with our lives. And inevitably, an updated version of normality has evolved, a ‘new normal’

Right after the November 2016 election, one often heard the promise, by Donald’s Trump’s opponents, never to allow his presidency to become normalized, to seem acceptable or routine.

Every day brings a barrage of bizarreness: the latest tweets, scandals, displays of bad manners, rumours of White House feuds and revelations about the Russians.     

Trump’s bullying style, his ignorance of the USA constitution, the rhetoric of his campaign – anti-immigrant, racist, misogynistic, mocking a free press and free speech – should (and would) continue to seem unprecedented, extreme, dangerous and outrageous. In many ways, Trump has helped the opposition keep that promise.

Anyone old enough to remember any previous presidency would know that it is NOT normal for an American president to tweet a meme of himself body-slamming someone with CNN’s logo superimposed over their head.

It is NOT normal for an American president to reveal classified information to Russian diplomats.

It is NOT normal to claim that a female MSNBC commentator was “bleeding badly from a facelift” either.

It is NOT normal to have one’s presidential campaign investigated for colluding with the Russians to sabotage democracy.

And it is certainly NOT normal for the press to publish a list of verifiable lies – almost daily – told by our highest official since assuming office.

Few of Trump’s detractors – or supporters – would argue that this is what was once considered normal.

But one of the best and worst things about our species is forgetfulness – how rapidly we adapt, how readily we learn to survive under changed conditions.

Most – if not all – of us have, despite everything, gone on with our lives. And inevitably, an updated version of normality has evolved, a “new normal” in which every day brings a barrage of bizarreness: the latest tweets, scandals, displays of bad manners, rumours of White House feuds; and revelations about the Russians.

In six months, we have learned to function in perpetual states of distraction, checking our devices for today’s startling tweet or leak. I have yet to hear anyone say they feel more energetic, optimistic or secure since November.

Liberals complain about being enervated, unable to concentrate. And Trump supporters who insist there’s nothing to this “Russia thing” and blame the media for our problems, seem less buoyant and hopeful than determined to stand by their man.

All these things have been normalized, along with the realization – the “real news” that should have broken widely, long before the election – of how divided our country is. For some, it’s normal to summer in the Hamptons and ski in the French Alps; for others, normality is unemployment and opioid addiction.

Trump’s election was an unwelcome diagnosis. The patient is the United States of America, and we are in serious trouble. Hate crimes, eruptions of public and private rage and helpless disaffection are not the signs of a healthy, functioning democracy.

But rather than try to cure the illness, we choose to live, so to speak, in denial: trolling and shouting down people whose ideas differ from our own; tracking each stage of the Trump family’s fall from grace; allowing Republican leaders to dismantle the protections that safeguarded our health and welfare.

We have become like a giant family, rife with warring factions, forced to spend time in one room, watching the latest episode of a reality TV show, horrified or heartened by the clownish antics. While in another part of the house, a band of thieves – who look suspiciously like Republican party leaders – are conspiring to rob us, not just of money but of the necessities (healthcare, education, clean air and water) that allow us to survive.

Here are some things that have become normalized: the insistence that facts are not facts, that the truth is not the truth. Our powerlessness to counter the Republican Congress’s efforts to deprive millions of Americans of healthcare. Displays of prejudice and meanness. Our inability to listen to one another, or simply listen.

Intoxicated by contempt for “the other side” and by the exhilaration of venting, no one wants to understand and work beyond our divisions, to remember our democratic ideals, to remind the prosperous and powerful that the poor and marginalized are human beings.

It’s become normal to ramp up the terrors of people who already fear ISIS, natural disasters, mass layoffs, addiction, losing what they have – to win their support for a candidate who makes them feel slightly braver.

And let’s not forget the truly awful things that have newly become normal. It’s now normal for the undocumented – who already suffered greatly under the Obama administration – to live in even greater terror, to leave their loving families and go to work knowing that they may never come home, that by evening they may find themselves in a detention center.

It is normal for kindergarteners to discuss what to do if ICE agents come to their door.

Thanks to the partial imposition of the Muslim ban, it is now normal for Muslim families to wonder if they will be able to see their relatives in the country any time soon.

In other words, nothing is normal for people whose lives have been changed in these ways.

We may have resisted normalizing Donald Trump’s presidency, but for many Americans – for some more, of course, than others – the meaning of “normal” has greatly changed. And it’s only taken six months.

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