Sunday, August 13, 2006

New Normal

Caner patients are told, after the drama and difficulty of treatment is over, "Welcome to the new normal." During new normal, you adjust to your losses and to your heightened sense of mortality, you recover your strength, you cherish whatever gifts were given on the journey through illness. You take up your responsibilities again, and move on into all that is your life.

Some things will be different, many will be the same. You will be different, but also the same. Your future happiness and effectiveness in life depend on finishing grieving the "old normal" and adjusting to the "new normal".

We Americans have now had nearly 5 years to adjust to the post 9/11 "New Normal". By and large, the people of our nation have done pretty well at it. We learned a lot about Islam and about the Moslems amongst us. We started to travel again and put up with inconveniences that would have been intolerable 5 years ago with patience and good humor.

Our government, on the other hand, has not done so well. Like the person whose cancer treatment ended years ago but who works their medical history into every conversation, our leaders continue to insist that we are "at war," and that soldiers and military might can make us safe again.

But it's not a war, it's a new normal. We adjust to our losses, learn what we need to learn, put up with what we need to put up with, and get on with our lives, determined to be neither a whining victim nor a fool in denial. To keep on going to war and provoking war is to be like the impatient cancer patient (and physician) who keeps asking for exploratory surgery, further traumatizing what is hopefully healing, spending precious resources that are needed elsewhere, and doing true harm all around.

Our national, "new normal" includes the fact that there are terrorists and that we must be vigilant against them. It includes the fact that the only way to keep ourselves completely safe from terrorists would involve an intolerable trade off of rights we cherish, just as keeping ourselves safe from (the much more likely) traffic accident would be intolerable. We may not like this new normal, but it is a fact of our lives. The better our basic health, the quicker we adjust and get on with all that is our lives.

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