“Americanness is a sponge, not an ethnicity; normalization is a key part of how it works. It resides in the way that we speak, in the ideas that get refined and reworked and encoded in ordinary words until they seem harmless enough. It’s the ability to fit things into a narrative that flatters our ability to reason. Normalization is the process through which wisdom becomes conventional and utopian ideals slam against questions of feasibility. And so we should remain suspicious of efforts to welcome Trumpism into the fold of mainstream American ideas, particularly when normalizing him suggests the privilege to pick and choose, to infer the existence of another’s decency and humanity, to laugh, and to think that, at the end of the day, we all just want the same thing.

…What much of this debate obscures—and what Chappelle reminded us in one of the night’s best skits, about a group of friends watching the election returns—is who qualifies as “us.” Who, in newsrooms and on TV, decides what is normal? Normalization isn’t just a matter of human-interest stories and a faith in checks and balances. What we think of as normal shapes our field of vision; it tells a story of the world and its possibilities. Racism, sexism, and the other hatreds and phobias lately on display didn’t become normalized this year. They’ve always been normal—for some of us. For those of us who long had to get used to these things, what is now being called normalization is merely a form of the resignation that attends life and its possibilities. How can it be otherwise? Some Americans are not born into the belief that the system is for them, and do not grow up with the promise that nothing is beyond reach, that anyone can become President. Why not reckon with this version of normal, too?

-Hsu Hua, The New Yorker

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