The trouble with normal…


This particular prompt from Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop stopped me (as they often say) dead in my tracks….”Is anything back to normal yet?  Write about the state of your state.”

One of the first things that flew, yes flew, into my mind were the lyrics from a Bruce Cockburn song entitled “The Trouble with Normal”.  The words fit New York State like one of the millions of disposable gloves that have become daily wear for residents of The Empire State.

Strikes across the frontier and strikes for higher wage
Planet lurches to the right as ideologies engage
Suddenly it’s repression, moratorium on rights
What did they think the politics of panic would invite?
Person in the street shrugs — “Security comes first”
But the trouble with normal is it always gets worse

Callous men in business costume speak computerese
Play pinball with the Third World trying to keep it on its knees
Their single crop starvation plans put sugar in your tea
And the local Third World’s kept on reservations you don’t see
“It’ll all go back to normal if we put our nation first”
But the trouble with normal is it always gets worse

Fashionable fascism dominates the scene
When ends don’t meet it’s easier to justify the means
Tenants get the dregs and landlords get the cream
As the grinding devolution of the democratic dream
Brings us men in gas masks dancing while the shells burst
The trouble with normal is it always gets worse

What follows is my “normal”…

New York State is under the rule of a governor presently being investigated for his misguided pandemic dictates which were responsible for the deaths of thousands of elderly nursing home patients.  Residents of our state struggle to survive, daily, as one step forward becomes several steps in reverse.  Businesses are closing at a painfully rapid pace while those who hang on, by a thread, keep hoping for relief.  Sadly, caught in this undercurrent are millions of people who remain out of work or, for now, work remotely with one eye over their shoulders, praying that their employment won’t come to a crashing halt.  We face one more year where graduating high school seniors will be robbed of all due pomp and circumstance, one more year where kids will sit in front of a computer screen at home, mandated to participate in remote instruction.  And one more year where families won’t be able to celebrate special occasions and friends will be unable to share support during times when everyone should be together.

The COVID vaccination process here is in full swing but the big problem is how erratically that swing is moving through the state.  Shipments of vaccine come and quickly disappear with no clear estimate of future availability.  Many counties in our state are putting forth exhaustive measures on behalf of state residents, demanding answers from the hierarchy in the state capital.  For many, it has become a “who you know” in the vaccine pipeline which might enable them to get the inoculations.  While people are living in fear of getting the virus, many others are beyond cautious regarding the insufficient data surrounding both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines and have chosen to opt-out until the one-shot Johnson & Johnson preparation is released.  The big gray area with all the vaccines is effectiveness and long-term side effects.

I imagine that people living in New York are pretty much like those living elsewhere and coping with a Coronavirus-lifestyle for well over a year now.  Yes, there are plenty who aren’t taking the pandemic restrictions and guidelines seriously and, at this point, can any one of us point that proverbial finger?  People have moved from paranoia to exhaustion right into downright anger from having their very souls stolen from all that surrounds COVID-19.

Spare me, if you will, the patronizing “things will get better”, “everything will return to normal” and take a good, long, look around…and ahead. The road to pandemic recovery remains enveloped in a fog of virus uncertainty.

Just remember to keep those masks on.