Normalization is Happening and It’s Creeping Me Out

Since I started this website in early January 2017 I’ve written hundreds-of-words-long posts with misspellings of these three words: Islamophobia, fascism and protester.

I used to spell them incorrectly like this: Islamaphobia, facism, and protestor.

Today I know very well how to spell these words and use them in a sentence. I do it almost daily. This is just one example of small things that feel like the normalization of what’s happening, just one example of things that are creeping me out.

I stopped turning on National Public Radio in the morning while I’m in the shower. I can’t stand to hear so many sentences and headlines proclaiming, “President _______(you know who)”. I refuse to put the words “President” and “Trump” together (this sentence that I just typed is the closest you’ll see me get to it). I never have spoken or written that title and I never will. I’ll continue to use the term “this Republican administration” whenever I refer to him and his party because the GOP needs to take responsibility for everything they’ve stood in line with thus far. They need to be held accountable for the rising hate. Resistance is in every detail, especially the words we choose to use when we talk to friends. Words have power to normalize. Are we really going to keep normalizing what’s happening?!

I’m so disturbed by these hints at normalization that I find myself feeling angry at language used by people I love dearly. For example, my best friend from college who is a TV reporter in a big U.S. city has been sent to Washington, D.C. for days-long reporting trips several times since inauguration. He’s so very talented and has won an Emmy for his reporting. I could not be prouder to be his friend. While he was in front of the White House recently, he responded to a question on a casual Facebook string by typing, “Yeah, I’m in DC to cover the President.”

That phrase jarred me. The President. I hate that we can normalize (even if it’s unintentional) all this bullshit by simple phrases like “the President”, but we can. The phrase concedes power to the hatred, lies, and threats spewing from the highest office in the land. Once again, I will NEVER refer to this man as The President, not even in casual conversations. It’s a dangerous and slippery slope to normalization.

Another sign of normalization: Every day I expect that I’ll look at the news and find headlines that speak to something horrifying–that we’re escalating military destruction in countries that we’re also attempting to ban from entering our country (and sometimes in the same goddamned day!), that this administration is prioritizing building a wall on the Mexican border while planning to revoke healthcare insurance from 24 million of our country’s most needy folks, that this administration is once again using language to demonize Islam. I don’t find these headlines surprising anymore. I expect them. 

It’s hard to put to words how deeply this scares me.

It’s only human that we normalize things, especially traumatic things. Afterall, we have to live our lives somehow. So, I think it’s part of our animal nature to normalize things enough to move on with daily life. I see this all around too: People seem to be louder about their NCAA tourney brackets than ever before, reports say TV ratings for fictional shows are skyrocketing post-election as people try to escape, Nick and I have gone to a movie and a concert in the past week, friends and coworkers sometimes talk about what they’re doing on the weekend as if nothing has changed.

Every day I tend to gravitate to the people who are still in utter disbelief, who are showing their anger, who are standing in the streets. If for no other reason, it brings me comfort to know I’m not the only one who’s feeling this way. And, being with folks who are upset helps me keep myself in check, helps me keep from normalizing too many things subconciously.

That’s one of the reasons I went to a NO BAN NO WALL rally in downtown Seattle this week, on the day that the second attempt at a Muslim Ban was set to take effect. A federal judge in Hawaii temporarily blocked it.

Muslim leaders from our city like the incredibly inspiring Aneelah Afzali from Muslim Association of Puget Sound (and others from ACLU, OneAmerica, and Council on American-Islamic Relations) led the rally and then led a prayer ceremony where non-Muslim folks held hands and formed a circle around our Muslim neighbors who were on their prayer rugs on the ground praying.

It was beautiful and symbolic. Local news media was on the scene with cameras. We showed our city that what’s happening is not normal and attempted to put good stories about Islam into the atmosphere. Here’s a short video of that ceremony. You’ll see me at about 35 seconds in, I’m in a black jacket:

One of the leaders of the group, Gus Mansour, gave a rousing speech where he called Trump a “clown”. He was so passionate and loud that passersby stopped midstep as rush hour traffic whizzed by. Listen to this short clip from him, it was awesome:

 

As with most rallies and direct actions these days, Neighborhood Action Coalition had a strong presence, they were indeed one of the organizers of this event. NAC flyers were flowing through the crowd.

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On the back of the flyer, there was a list of “What can I do to combat Islamophobia?”. The list echoed what every leader who took the stage said.

  1. Resist Islamophobia by going to daily events that challenge stereotypes. Let others know you don’t find degrading jokes funny.
  2. Write letters to the editor of USA Today and New York Times and call in to radio shows, all in support of immigrant and refugee communities.
  3. Document and report instances of Islamophobia to CAIR-WA or Seattle Office for Civil Rights.
  4. Visit a local mosque and offer help and to volunteer.
  5. Join a mailing list for future actions. Here’s one important one: Muslimationlist@gmail.com
  6. Continue educating yourself through sites like this.

We have so much work to do and must be vigilant.

I want to switch topics completely for one second and show you something happy. This is our cat, Ryan, with me and Nick as we ate pizza in our apartment one night this week. He likes to sit in the chair with us.

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And, here are some of the latest headlines I’m seeing on my phone from The Washington Post:

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