Chicago - Sep. 19, 2020
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A Return To Abnormalcy

Don't panic. Don't you dare panic. We're cool and chill. Both of them. We need normalcy in this glorious spring.

"Here in the nation's capital, there is anxiety and concern, but no outward sign of panic. As a matter of fact, there are signs of normalcy . . . "

Well, actually there's a little sign of panic and very few signs of normlacy.

In fact, lots of panic. Being scared bleepless is biologically appropriate.

When real-life radio newsman H.V. Kaltenborn offered that on-the-air view in 1951's The Day The Earth Stood Still, he was not completely on target.

Cinematic "normalcy" that exact moment involved Klaatu and Gort arriving in a flying saucer in the capital. They suggested upon arrival they might have to blow up the Earth if the Earthers didn't get the house in order.

As for us - both now in real time and then under under Mr. Kaltenborn's guidance in 1951 - announcing how cool and unpanicked you are suggests you are panicking.

Maybe Gort's intervention would help now, too. Everyone knows at least two or three irritating people they secretly wish could be turned into burned-out cinders.

We stop here for a totally extraneous digression about Kaltenborn: It was not the first time the famous Broadcasting Hall of Famer and NBC News guy erred. He was actually the first national media source to declare Thomas Dewey had beaten President Harry Truman, who then delighted in mocking Kaltenborn's excruciatingly precise diction being dead wrong.

So now everyone scared into jibbering conniptions by the COVID-19 virus craves a "return to normalcy." But just as H.V. demonstrated, it ain't necessarily so, just 'cause you say it.

Just as hope is not a plan, there's often nothing normal about this normalcy we seek, and might not be for another year.

By then, we might all wish for a return to Abnormalcy.

What's "normal" now?

On one side is Donald Trump. On the other side of COVID-19. I think the virus is whipping our butts.

But bleating for "normalcy" shows up in commentary almost as frequently as "unprecedented." So it must be real.

Scientists say pounding a word into pointlessness by overuse is called "semantic satiation."

Normalcy is all but dead as a meaningful word. "Unprecedented" is running a close second.

Media of all intensities have become obsessed with the word without offering much evidence that we are headed to that serene state, even if we all agreed what normalcy was.

I once had a great uncle who believed he was normal, but we knew he was not.

In the course of 48 hours this week, newsers both grand and modest proclaimed the desire for the illusive "normalcy" and hinted it might be closer.

"In push for normalcy, industries, nations test the waters," ABC-TV proclaimed.

"Country continues slow move to normalcy," the Associated Press promised.

"Normalcy needed for better Georgia budget, state economist says," the Brunswick, Ga., News noted.

We want it, we need it; we have to have it.

Every news outlet in the country - maybe the world - is digging up stories on normalcy and the necessary return thereto. Mixed martial arts, bars, and brothels all thirst for it.

"For this drive-in movie theater, a chance to return to normalcy," proclaimed one outlet, neglecting to mention that recent "normal" for drive-ins is a sign that reads "out of business."

This rush seems to defy the "flight or flight" instinct which is natural selection at its most intelligent and useful. We are not fleeing peril, but seeming to be urged toward it, as if it's our duty to confront death.

This is not evolved primate behavior.

Exactly what is different in your risk profile today than was true two months ago?

The main difference is that 72,000 Americans are dead (plus 200,000 more around the world) which is more American blood than we spent on Vietnam, once the numerical benchmark for national catastrophe. But the current total now is more than all soldiers combined we lost in Vietnam and every war we've fought since then.

Let's see how the war is going.

Cure? Check's in the mail. Try not to die before 2021.

Slowed rates of infection? Sure, I'll respect you in the rnorning.

Tests? Vampire Walking Dead robot Jared Kushner has got that one solved.

Nursing home safety? Send grandma on down here; we've got plenty of empty beds.

Meatpacking facilities? Currently safer for hogs than employees.

The Coronavirus Task Force? We'll give Voldemort and Skeletor a crack at that. They're cousins of Mike Pence.

Smart ones? Poll by Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, found only 12 percent of Americans say the stay-at-home measures where they live go too far, while 26 percent say the restrictions don't go far enough and a majority, 61 percent, say the directives from officials are about right.

Dumb ones? When Georgia relaunched its beauty parlors, barber shops and restaurants last week, 550,000 hairy temporary emigres darted across state borders to get cleaned up and eat barbecue. No risk in that live-free-or-die demographic.

The only demographic that demands a headlong return to normalcy turns out to be living in the White House.

The rest of us are willing to define "normalcy" as staying alive. Most Americans apparently are not ignoramuses, which is good news, and somewhat surprising given other evidence.

But look at the unresolved, undiminished and unconquered risks this way: Two months ago every stranger you encountered on the street could have sneezed you into a premature death. That guy is still out there sneezing. He has found his own personal "normalcy."

For the rest of us? Stay home. Stay alive.

As Klaatu told Gort: "Klaatu barada nikto," which is space lingo for "Don't panic. Let's go home."

-

Previously by David Rutter:

* Kris Bryant's Future Bar Trick.

* Mansplaining To A Millionaire.

* Status Check: Chicago Sports.

* The Week In WTF Redux: Blago Is Back Edition.

* What Is A Chicagoan Anyway?

* Glenn Beck's Turn In The Volcano.

* Only Science Will Bring Back Sports.

* I Loathe The Lockdown Protestors.

* Reopening Books.

-

David Rutter is the former publisher/editor of the Lake County News-Sun, and more importantly, the former author of the Beachwood's late, great "The Week In WTF" column. He welcomes your comments.



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Posted on May 8, 2020


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