Normal is only a setting on a washing machine.

Hi. Thanks for coming. 

I’ve been wanting to have this talk with you for a while. What I want to say is a bit awkward, but I hope you’ll hear me out with an open mind. There are some things that need to be said and I just can’t be quiet about them anymore. 

Here’s the thing I want to say to you: Normal never existed

Everything, every single thing, that you took for granted would always be the same, would always be easy, would always just flow… Every single bit of that was privilege. It wasn’t normal. 

The ability to socialize with friends safely in a home, without fear of immediate or future repercussions? Privilege- some related to race, some to class, some to mental health/well-being (among others).
The ability to wander a store, browse, pick things up and put them back down without harassment? Privilege- some related to race, some related to socialization, some related to location (among others). 
The ability to pick over a plate of sandwiches at a social event or visit a buffet? Privilege- some related to physical health, some related to mental health, some related to ability to conform to social expectations (among others)
The ability to send children to school, linger over a coffee break, the ability to do one thing at a time? Privilege- some related to economic systems, some related to class, some related to “gender” expectations (among others)

There is so much here that was permitted to pass as “normal”, but was and is actually privileged expectations rooted in white, Western cis-gendered, heteronormative patriarchy shaped by mid-20th century Americanized Christianity. 

Yes, that’s a long list. Yes, I say it in every conversation. I’m going to keep bringing it up until I know you know what I mean and that you are as committed to dismantling it as I am. 

Your desire to see things return to “normal”, I fear, is a desire to sweep back under the rug all the things that challenge your privilege, your status quo, your way of being. There is no normal when we expect to balance the level of social and political experience on the backs of oppressed people. That’s not normal. And it’s not okay. 

The grief you feel now, friend, is over the death of a reality that didn’t exist, and still doesn’t, for most of the people in the United States and in the world. I understand your words when you say that you just want things to be easier, to be less dramatic, less painful, more relaxed. I hear you. 

Do you understand Emma Lazarus’s words, “Until we are all free, we are none of us free”?

All of the things you want, all of what you long for- from hymn singing to restaurants to kid’s birthday parties to hugging friends- all of that is possible again, but you cannot view it as normal. You must learn to see each of these things for the privileges that they are. And then you must want, and be willing to work for, everyone to have access these things. 

It will never be acceptable for you to grouse until you get what you want and then continue to live a blinkered existence, acting as though you earned your right to gallivant through space and time, doing as you please. I know that’s not what you mean when you say you want things to go back to “normal”, but that’s what I hear. That’s what I hear and I do think that is what you mean. 

You have a chance, a call, an opportunity in this COVID-19 interregnum to decide to be different. You have the chance to examine your privilege, the way your world is shaped, what comes easily to you and what doesn’t and then look at your cards compared to the hands of those around you. In this period, perceiving how the deck is stacked is as clear as it will ever get. What are you going to do about it? 

Normal was always an illusion. It is a lie based false narratives and intentions to divide and conquer. We cannot return to lies. We cannot long to return to lies or a time of lies. 

It was always going to come down to recognizing one’s privilege and being willing to use it, however it exists, to learn more, do better, and become a part of new way of being.

I’m glad we had this talk. What you’ll do with it remains to be seen.


The Reverend Julia Seymour serves Big Timber Lutheran Church (ELCA)  in Big Timber, MT. She blogs at lutheranjulia.blogspot.com and readsallthethings.com. She contributed to There’s A Woman in the Pulpit and is President of the board of RevGalBlogPals, Inc.


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One thought on “The Pastoral is Political: Normal Never Existed

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