Normal Is Not Enough
Do you remember that time in 2020 when the murder hornets made a brief appearance then decided to exit the sh*t show because….well….2020. Did they return in 2021? No? Thank God, because that may have been the tipping point that would have broken many of us.
In 2020, we mused that it was the longest 5 years of our lives. We laughed thinking that 2021 would be the gentle gateway to steer us clear from the dangers of a global pandemic, the perils of political and religious unrest, and the threat of climate change.
It all seems but a distant memory and the jokes we shared at the end of that year don’t carry the same punch as we move closer to the portal of 2022. I know of no one who is looking to the new year as the return to “normal”.
What these past two years have taught me is that “normal” is an illusory construct that allows us to stay asleep while humanity cries for justice and the world aches to be healed. Nature mandated a pause that we were incapable of imposing upon ourselves. We have been forever changed, no matter how much we long to return to the status quo.
Let me be clear about this dangerous concept of normal — to make it our objective after the world has been turned upside down is not only unrealistic, it’s selfish. Normal only leads to a mediocre existence that sets the bar of humanity so low, we are destined to repeat the horrible mistakes of our past.
2021 held all the residual muck that began in 2020 and stirred the embers of unrest that are exploding across this nation and aren't going to be extinguished anytime soon. This is where the challenges of the past two years are inviting us to revisit that mirror that 2020 held before us and truly look at our individual responsibilities to fix what’s broken.
But let us pause for just a moment. For change to have lasting impact, we need to look behind that mirror and down the road from which we came. It isn’t pretty. The truth rarely is, but the truth is where authentic healing begins.
2020 showed us that a toxic human being failed to step up as a leader of this country to manage the critical early stages of a global pandemic. Because of this, America has witnessed and suffered absolute carnage in its hospitals and funeral homes.
2020 saw the boiling rage of racism, homophobia and white supremacy, all supported and upheld by Christian nationalists, spill over because the masses were asleep and could never fathom that someone as ill-equipped and unqualified as Donald Trump could be elected President of the United States. On our watch, the fragile democratic system that we failed to protect came under attack and remains that way today.
The 2020 mirror showed us that systemic racism was so prevalent that a white police officer felt confident enough to be videotaped in broad daylight kneeling on the neck of a handcuffed Black man until he died.
The truth lies far behind 2020 however - the ugly truth that reveals the racism and white supremacy entrenched in this nation’s founding. It tells us that, yes, the Civil War granted freedom to Black people, and then white people with wealth and power created barriers to prevent equal and fair opportunities. Data -- such as “in 1946, 14,394 white people and 38,970 Black people lived in Leflore County, Mississippi. Of those folks, 4,345 white people were registered to vote, and they carried elections, since the 26 Black people registered to vote did not risk their safety by casting a ballot.”* shows us that bigotry has always permeated our judicial, educational and religious systems and ensures that it is as American as apple pie.
The 2020 mirror showed us that the earth has lost its ability to handle the waste and emissions we humans produce and has responded with a fury that was unimaginable 20 years ago, producing tornadoes in December, floods over lands that were once dry, and fires that have ravaged the homes of humans and animals alike.
The truth however, is on the road that lies behind the mirror to 2020, where scientists had for years been waving white flags, begging us to pay attention to the climate crisis before it was too late.
And now it is too late.
Shall I go on? Do you get the picture? Have you stopped reading? Are you desperate to go back to sleep and hope that when you awake this nightmare will be over?
If you feel this way, I get it. I really do.
I’ll be honest. The overwhelm used to send me back into memories of my youth. I longed for the innocence of my childhood, where my only trouble was avoiding being kicked by one of my grandfather’s dairy cows as they made their way into the milking barn each afternoon. But that time of innocence came at a price for others who were forgotten, the ones who lived in the South where schools, restrooms, and water fountains were segregated. I can still cherish the memories of my childhood but also be acutely aware that they come from a place of privilege that was denied to those who didn’t look like me.
There is no turning away. This is our watch -- our time in history to show up and do what’s right. No, it is not up to us to solve everything. No one person can do that. But if your spirituality compels you to work for the good of the whole and leave the world a better place than you found it, falling back asleep is not an option.
No one is blaming you for the pandemic.
No one is blaming you that white nationalists are seeking to destroy our democracy.
No one is blaming you that climate change has reached a critical tipping point.
But we are all to blame if we turn away from the pain in the world, pretend it doesn’t exist, and rationalize that anything we do wouldn’t matter.
So as we move closer to the portal of a new year, Beloved, remember this…
It all matters.
I’ll meet you in 2022.
Let’s work together for the good of the whole.
*Thank you to Heather Cox Richardson and her daily Letters from an American, where you will find the data I used for this blog writing.
Join Rev Karla on her podcast, “Spirituality Matters,” where she expands on her blog writings.