BY JIM DEES
A foreboding new phrase has entered our national lexicon, “a new normal,” which sounds innocent enough, but translates roughly into the more familiar, “Uh oh.” For example, one hopes Ole Miss football didn’t reach a “new normal,” last year, but that the state champion Lafayette Commodores did. America is swearing in a new president whose policies, demeanor and even hair, portends anything but “normal.”
Perhaps a new “Uh oh?”
Last year saw the death of numerous pop culture figures, particularly legendary musicians like Mississippi native (and former Ole Miss student) Mose Allison. Luckily his music is immortal and not subject to the fickle whimsy of normality, new or otherwise.
“New normal” doesn’t necessarily mean change for the worse, it can also represent positive developments. Oxford is now tobacco-free in public places and beer can be purchased cold, as the founders intended. This town is building a 500-space parking garage downtown that certainly signals a new normal in our city’s growth. During the recent holiday season, our Jewish brothers and sisters in this community, organized as the Jewish Federation of Oxford some 40-strong, began the process of locating a synagogue in town.
In late November and early December, rain became so scarce a burn ban went into effect and was only lifted after nearly a week of Biblical precipitation. Still, 2016 went down into the books as the third record warm year in a row. The situation became so dire in parts of the south that pigs were hard-pressed to find mud in which to wallow.
Kathleen Crocker, a pig farmer at Vandele Farms near Fairview, N.C. told the Asheville (N.C.) Citizen Times, “We have some young pigs that were just born and haven’t even had the opportunity in their lives to make a wallow. They’re out there having a ball right now.”
The article went on to add that “factory farmers” tell people that a pig’s love – nay, need – for mud can be bred out of them. Area pig farmers responded to this by calling the notion, “nonsense, wanton ignorance and wishful thinking.” (One might add, “hogwash.”)
With the rampant encroachment of “new normals” springing up all around us like psychic minefields, it’s comforting to know that pigs are drawing a line in the mud – when they can find some.
We are adapting to such new developments by incorporating the “new” into our lives, what the social scientists call, “normalization.” Wired magazine described this process recently in an article non-ironically entitled, “The Normalization of ‘Normalize’ Is A Sign of the New Normal.” In it, author Emily Dreyfuss reported the word, “normalize” was used online twice as much in 2016 as it was in 2015, a trend she referred to as, “linguistic contagion.”
In our personal lives, we all deal with new normals, every day. For me, here at Rancho Geezer, a new normal occurs every time I venture out for a haircut and discover my stylist now includes quick attention to the ears and nose. My wardrobe is a constant parade of new normal with pants that shrink on their own and shirts that forget how to button. One notes the constant, rather unsettling, shifting of anatomical geography.
Buckle up for more of the not same. In the New World Disorder, “normal” has become a moving target and maybe we’re not quite sure what it is or if we even aspire to it? This plunges us into a shadowy universe where old assumptions are tossed out like Super Bowl leftovers, or, to quote the decidedly abnormal Bill Murray in Ghostbusters: “Real wrath of God type stuff. Rivers and seas boiling! Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes… The dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!”
Perhaps we’re not at the point just yet of mass hysteria – though the intersection of Highways 6 and 7 comes close some days – but we have to be vigilant. The world seems bent on seeing just how much craziness we take. The other day I saw Teriyaki Beef Jerky. Can you imagine Gus and Call, the grizzled cowpokes of Lonesome Dove, searching through their saddle bag for that delicacy? Maybe they’d head to the local saloon, the Dry Bean, and wash it down with a delicious apple-fused craft beer.
As for me, I’m with the pigs. Show me the mud.