In normal times we anticipate the splendid gluttony of the American Thanksgiving, the fellowship of family and friends, with gratitude and remembrance of overcoming ordeals past. This year, though, we are a bit preoccupied with ordeals to come, and that nip in the November air conjures rumors of approaching hardship and cruelties we have no idea how we might overcome. These are not normal times.
What was normal, anyway? The second half of the twentieth century in Western Civ, the cornucopia of post-war America, paychecks that covered the house, the car, assured square meals, and quite a bit left over for Disneyworld, a place at the lake with a speedboat, and four seats at the ballpark. Normal was keeping a lid on discontent in foreign lands and containing our wicked obverse enemy, the Soviet communists. Normal was mom and dad together under one roof, expecting strangers to behave decently, order outside the home. Normal was thinking all that would last forever.
I idealize a bit. But many of you will recognize at least some of that being present in your lives for a while, at least. And you might agree that it all started breaking badly in the new century, clearly marked by the attacks of nine-eleven. What followed that wondrous enormity was the amazing and nauseating transfiguration of our country into the opposite of the old normal: broad financial desperation, broken families, strangers bent on homicide and mayhem, official tyranny of all kinds, immersive lying, failed institutions, foolish wars, nothing and no one to believe in, and the creeping suspicion that mysterious evil forces are running it all.