Sarah Palin made news Friday, December 2, by lashing out at Donald Trump’s Carrier deal, a questionable negotiation that will cost taxpayers $7 million and which was consummated upon a threat that Trump would charge Carrier a 35 percent tax for any imports from its plant in Mexico if it didn’t promise to keep jobs here in the United States.
Palin made news not because she commented, but because her comments were actually cogent.
In other news the same day, Donald Trump earned high praise for his selection of James “Mad Dog” Mattis as Secretary of Defense. Mattis is largely seen as a smart, scholarly, serious intellectual who knows his stuff. This is praise indeed, especially considering some of Trump’s other cabinet picks, which include billionaire pal Betsy DeVos, who has never been a teacher, who never attended public school, whose children never attended public school, and who has espoused “intelligent design.” Oh—did I mention she’s Trump’s pick for Secretary of Education?
Compared to picks like DeVos, Mattis seems absolutely brilliant.
This comes a day after Trump’s propaganda rally in Cincinnati, the first stop on his victory tour, during which he, yet again, lambasted the dishonest media. His continual cries that the failing media are all a bunch of dishonest liars has become part and parcel of his shtick, as has his ongoing threats to punch holes in the First Amendment.
Trump’s victory tour and propaganda rallies are taking place just a couple weeks after alt-right star Richard Spencer stirred up a hate-filled crowd at a conference for his National Policy Institute, which supports white Nationalist policies. So roused were Spencer’s followers that they shouted “Hail Trump!” while giving the Nazi stiff-arm salute. Because, you know, that’s normal.
And, of course, all of this comes on the heels of the appointment as Trump’s chief White House strategist Stephen Bannon, the Breitbart talking head who has been labeled anti-Semitic, sexist, racist, and all sorts of other not-so-great things. Several months on in Trumpland and Bannon’s nonstop presence in—yikes—government seems almost normal. As though it doesn’t matter that the leader of the crazy alt-right movement has the ear of the President-Elect.
This is because there is no such thing as normal anymore.
The new normal is that there is no normal.
What on God’s green earth is going on here?
What is happening?
How much crazier are we going to let things get before we wake up, smell the coffee, and dump the Kool-Aid down the drain?
None of this is normal.
Watching Republicans twirl around in a frenzy of glory and hope over the prospect of having relatively no checks and balances for at least the next two years, all while backing down from their protestations that Trump is “a phony, a fraud” or that he is “a national disgrace” and “an international pariah” or that he is an “egomaniacal madman” is only making matters worse. These politicians without principles are whoring themselves, so caught up are they in the prospect of unchecked power. And in doing so, they are normalizing the very man—and his hate-filled movement—that they just months ago were disavowing.
And now that’s normal, too. Jason Chaffetz defected from Trumpland before voting for him. Same goes for Mike Crapo, Deb Fischer, and Ted Cruz. Republican leaders and voters alike are warming up to Trump and the Trumpsters, but, worse, they seem to have stopped caring about all the crazy that goes along with the whole Trump thing.
Republicans—the self-described party of family values—willingly supported a thrice-married, philandering wolf who preys on women. Because that’s normal.
Women voted for Trump, Sexist-in-Chief, in unexpected numbers despite the fact that he has referred to women as “pussies,” “fat pigs,” “slobs,” and “bitches” and despite the fact that he questioned whether married women should work outside the home. Because that’s normal.
Parents voted for Trump, Bully-in-Chief, despite the fact that we teach our children not to be bullies. Because that’s normal.
Workers supported Trump, Billionaire-in-Chief, because they believed he could feel their pain, because they believed he would fight for them. Because, you know, why wouldn’t he?
Anti-establishmentarians voted for Trump, Apprentice-in-Chief, because he promised he would “drain the swamp”—even though his cabinet picks represent a billionaire class of elites, many of whom have long-held ties to government. But apparently that’s okay.
So many people seem to just pshaw the whole Trump thing away, as though it’s perfectly normal that America will be sending to the White House an ignorant, incurious, incomprehensible sexist, racist, bigoted bully.
And despite the ongoing crazy—or maybe because of the ongoing crazy—we all seem to be stunned into silence, shocked into a stupor that leaves us incapable of acknowledging how very not normal all of this is. We have become inured to crazy. We are living in The Bizarro Age, where Sarah Palin looks like a genius, where racists roam the halls of the White House, where principles mean nothing.
The dangers of normalizing Trump and the Trumpsters, the dangers of normalizing the crazy, are myriad. Stunned silence gives way to apathy. Shocked stupor gives way to inaction. The more crazy we hear, the more crazy we tune out.
We are setting ourselves up for a world of hurt. And it’s not the first time in history that this has happened. Indeed, it’s not the first time in the past century that this has happened. We need look back only to the 1930s and ’40s for an example of what happens when we normalize the crazy. As Adam Gopnik recently wrote in The New Yorker:
Hitler wasn’t Hitler—until he was. At each step of the way, the shock was tempered by acceptance. It depended on conservatives pretending he wasn’t so bad, compared with the Communists, while at the same time the militant left decided that their real enemies were the moderate leftists, who were really indistinguishable from the Nazis. The radical progressives decided that there was no difference between the democratic left and the totalitarian right and that an explosion of institutions was exactly the most thrilling thing imaginable.
What are we doing to ourselves?
When we normalize the crazy that is Trump World, we make it all too easy to look beyond all sorts of other kinds of crazy. Like hate crimes, which are on the rise. Or the hypocrisy of our politicians. Or mounting racism and bigotry and sexism. When we normalize the crazy, we look past tweets and posts and comments that refer to those with opposing views as “libtards” or “retardigan” or “Trumptard.”
Because all of that is normal now. There’s nothing wrong with name-calling on social media. It is accepted that politicians have no principles. Racism and bigotry and sexism—it’s always been a problem and it always will be a problem. So what?
Everything gets a pass.
History will tell whether Trump is the new Hitler. Perhaps that comparison is indeed too facile. But when we normalize all kinds of crazy, we give ourselves permission to look away from the ugly.
And there is a lot of ugly going on right now.
A lot of crazy. And a lot of ugly.
This seems like a crazy, ugly world right now. A lot of Trump supporters simply do not see this. They choose not to. A lot of Clinton supporters opt to see only the hate, looking past any attempts at reconciliation or understanding. This is crazy, too.
If we want things to improve, we cannot let this continue. We cannot keep normalizing the crazy. We need to stare it in the face, to confront it, to call it out when we see it—respectfully. Name-calling doesn’t do any good; in fact, it shuts down any conversation before it can even begin. So let’s not normalize name-calling, either.
Let’s normalize respectful, educated discourse. Let’s normalize kindness. Let’s normalize principled discussion. Let’s normalize acceptance and tolerance.
I choose to do what I can to confront the crazy. I choose to do what I can to keep communication respectful. I choose to normalize the good instead of accepting the crazy as the status quo.
Will you join me?