The (not) new (not) normal

Flying pig. Image: Morton Devonshire, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Flying pig. Image: Morton Devonshire, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Cat videos, binge-watching comfortable reruns, muting the news: I get it. It’s been a brutal political year, and after the end of it, the federal government is in for what appears to be the sharpest change in political direction within recent memory.

No one knows what’s going to happen, but half the country preemptively disapproves. And exactly the same would still be true if the results had gone the other way.

When faced with uncertainty and with rapid change, our least helpful emotions emerge: anger, fear, anxiety. Least helpful because anger tends to knock fifty points off the IQ, because fear leads some to timidity and others to recklessness, and anxiety because it leads to paralysis and withdrawal.

The biggest hazard at a time like this may be to just get used to it, to declare an era marked by competing apocalyptic pronouncements, fungible facts, and bubbles of mutually exclusive understanding the new normal and proceed as usual. As segregation and apartheid became “just how we do things here,” as forced collectivization became “modern Soviet agriculture,” as grinding poverty became a routine consequence of the “natural order.”

Unsettled times are painful. The strong temptation is to disengage, to quit the public sphere for the private and hunker down. I get it. I suspect that’s exactly how the times get unsettled.


12 Comments on “The (not) new (not) normal”

  1. David Duff says:

    I agree with your analysis whole heartedly. To counter our knee jerk natural reactions I think one has to 1.Step back a moment to change the immediacy of now. 2. Recognize this is a marathon, long distance effort. 3.have love in your heart for your next step. 4. Remain positive.
    David Duff

  2. Connie Meng says:

    Thank you Dale, for the cogent reminder – Eloquent and right on, as usual.

  3. Robin Brown says:

    Bless you Dale. This is a tough and horrible time. We must support each other and work with each other. Thank you for speaking out, as NCPR and NPR does and helps us keep balanced.

  4. Pete Klein says:

    This is actually are rather fun time. Sadly, this too will pass and we will return to boring.
    Best comedy is watching protesters protest about anything. Better than watching Saturday Night Dead.

  5. John Warren says:

    I find it disconcerting when we tell the targets of violence they’re being overly sensitive.

  6. ncpradmin says:

    Hi John–

    I don’t see where I said that or anything like that.

    Dale Hobson, NCPR

  7. Myra Grady says:

    Wise words from a thoughtful man. Thank you, Dale. This weekend especially, I need the sense of understanding and community that you’ve provided.

  8. John Warren says:

    “No one knows what’s going to happen, but half the country preemptively disapproves.”

    What’s going to happen is already happening to those who are being targeted – particularly women and people of color. Their disapproval is not preemptive and their anger, fear, and anxiety are legitimate and healthy protective responses.

    It troubles me when the privileged negate anger and fear as emotionalism. I think, at times like these, the truly emotional response is to repeat the mantra “it’s going to be ok” when for many, it clearly has not been ok for some time.

    I would like to see the privileged stop talking and start listening. I’m reminded of Dave Chappalle’s opening monologue on SNL in which he mocks the idea that we’ve only just now elected a racist president.

  9. ncpradmin says:

    Hi John–

    You assume, I think, that my words are solely directed toward liberals disheartened by the election of Trump. I’m also saying that this time of uncertainty and rapid change has brought to the fore anger, fear and anxiety in conservatives, and the response by them to those conditions contributed much to this year of poisonous and unhelpful politics. I am trying here to be descriptive and not prescriptive. And I am not telling victims of anything to calm down and hope for the best. Instead I am recommending that people not disengage out of emotional exhaustion, but continue to stand up, and continue to move the dial on what actually happens, rather than be consumed by what they fear will happen.

    Dale Hobson, NCPR

  10. Paul Hetzler says:

    Thank you for this. I think we are all scared, on every side. Good to keep in mind that hatred is a manifestation of unacknowledged fear. I believe it is actually constructive, a prerequisite to the first small step forward, to admit we feel afraid, to ourselves and to those around us. Then we can move forward, in community, supporting one another. Owning our emotions and getting them out into the sunlight and fresh air is the only way to keep them from festering into something really toxic and destructive. If we do not own our fear, it will own us.

  11. Stephanie says:

    I was at the Washington DC march today. You are not alone in your thinking. They’re saying there were 500,000 people there, but people who live in DC said it was more like a million. There were so many who were measured and thoughtful about their protest. It was peaceful and powerful. It needs to become a movement. There are resources we can access to work on political dissent. Go to to

  12. Pete Klein says:

    Can’t be #1 if you are afraid.
    Greatest Generation must look at the current generations and wonder what they fought and died for.

Comments are closed.