Down Route 66: We’re not going back ‘normal’

Image by David Mark from Pixabay
Tom Wray Editor, Illinois Eagle

Like many others, I celebrated the news of Joe Biden winning the election. It was the first time since the 2016 election that I felt like I could breathe. As a gay man, I am in one of the groups that was in danger from the administration. Biden’s election was the first glimmer of light after a very long night. It no longer felt like we had to constantly be on guard for the next assault from an administration that had, in so many ways, proven to be an enemy. It almost felt like the nightmare was over.

But the nightmare isn’t over. Not yet. First, we still have to get through the next couple of months. Trump, as I write this, still hasn’t conceded. He probably won’t. He’s filed lawsuits in at least five states trying to overturn the result. He won’t succeed, but it’s still gonna cause chaos, not least because it will likely encourage his supporters to keep protesting the result.

His supporters are what we still need to worry about. Trump will be gone. Hopefully, he’ll be in jail. (Let me dream.) However, that won’t change the fact that 70 million Americans looked at everything he did over the past four years and went, “Yeah, that was pretty good.”

We have to deal with the fact that racism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, Islamophobia and xenophobia were not dealbreakers for so many. We can no longer pretend that racism is in the past. Not when we’re still getting daily examples. It is still here and still alive.

That means we can’t go back to “normal.” Normal didn’t acknowledge very real racism and other prejudices that exist in this country.

We won a battle. That is a good thing. This was a big battle. It needed to be won. If Trump had been re-elected, there is no telling how much more damage he could have done to our laws and norms. We have earned the right to celebrate and take a breath.

But that doesn’t mean we can stop.

Biden is a huge improvement over Trump. That’s also a really, really low bar. With Biden, we can at least expect someone who will listen to scientists about coronavirus and climate change. He does not look at government as a win/lose concept. He does not insult people for simply saying no. He won’t egg on his worst supporters to follow their worst impulses.

He also won’t push on the issues and situations that allowed Trump to come to power. The system does not work for all of us. It was supposed to keep a power-hungry narcissist out of office. It failed. Trump showed so many of the “rules” we thought contained presidents were only conventions without the power of law. They depended on the willingness of people to play by the rules. If they don’t want to, well there’s nothing to stop them.

Our system is based on a document written at a time when giving anyone outside the wealthy or aristocracy any kind of say was considered crazy. For the time it was written in, it was incredibly forward thinking and progressive. But we’re not in 1780 now. It’s 2020 and the system must change to truly be representative. We have to push for things to change,

We can’t go back to normal. Too much has changed for us to even consider it. We have to keep pushing for Medicare for All. We need to keep pushing for true reform of the police. We need to put real resources behind mitigating climate change. We need to ensure the education system reaches and prepares everyone for the chaotic future we’re still heading toward. We need to work to make sure that we don’t get another Trump in office and build a system of true representation in government. We were lucky this time. We probably won’t be next time.

For a day, maybe two, we can rest. We can take a breath. We can think of something other than impending doom. But then we need to get back to work.