By Valerie Davis
Special to the Pittsburgh Current
“Young people, like you, are living such strange lives. This isn’t normal. Actually, this is very saddening knowing you have to grow up in times like these.”
My dad expressed this to me a few weeks ago, and I have not stopped thinking about it since then. One word stuck out with me, in particular. Normal. I had to just stop and ponder momentarily about what even constitutes normalcy these days. What is “normal?”
He conveyed this idea to me on January 8th, two days after the riot at the Capital.
For young people everywhere, nothing is normal anymore. Or at least I do not know what to think of as normal. In all honesty, I am so numb to anything happening when I read the news that nothing surprises me anymore. It’s a hard thing to admit, but over the last four years, I’ve learned to just accept that white supremacy riots occur, systematic racism is quite prominent, and blatant homophobia can just, well, happen.
Before I go on, read that again. Please. I cannot even believe I wrote those words, but it’s true. These concepts are accepted, even openly encouraged, by the previous leader of our country.
All of these concepts have been normalized during Trump’s presidency. Don’t get me wrong – I am immensely disgusted and saddened by specific events that have happened over the last four years. However, I believe many of these instances such as the riots at Charlottesville, the “Blue Lives Matter movement,” and the domestic terrorism at the Capital have all desensitized the citizens of the United States. It upsets me beyond belief that this is my “normal,” and it should upset everyone else, too.
I vividly remember walking into my predominantly white high school with tears in my eyes on November 10, 2016. At that time, I was sixteen years old and a sophomore in high school. My only knowledge of the political world was that Trump sucks and health care should be a right. For myself and most high schoolers, I formed my own thoughts and opinions from that of my parents’ opinions. At my school, however, the political spectrum ranged all the way from Bernie Sanders’ socialism to extreme reactionaries. I had no idea our grade was so split until a seemingly ordinary Wednesday in November.
When I walked into my Honors English class, I saw a girl that I had only spoken to about five times thus far in the school year decked out in red, white, and blue. I thought to myself, “Oh, nice. She watched the election last night. It’s pretty odd that she’s wearing those clothes. It’s almost as if she’s actually celebrating the results of the election.” Then, I saw it. The focal point of her outfit. She wore a gigantic scarf with “TRUMP” down both sides, falling carefully against her upper body. I stood there in shock, coming to a horrible realization for the first time that will stay relevant to me for the rest of my life: Trump supporters are all around us. Every day.
That was my first experience with a blatant Trump supporter. More specifically, a female Trump supporter. Surprisingly, I have met a myriad more since then.
With a school district as big as mine, I was lucky if I knew seventy-five percent of the students in each of my classes. To put it into perspective, I heard names at my graduation that I had never once heard before. So, as that same day at school continued, I kept my eyes peeled for other people decked out in “USA” and “MAGA” apparel. To my disbelief, I witnessed a kid I had not recognized until that day dressed as an arrested Hilary Clinton. He even held a placard with her name and other identifiers, as though he was getting ready to pose for a mugshot. To this day, that was the only day I remember seeing him in school. That will be the only memory of him for the rest of my life.
From the day after election day in 2016 on, I gradually came to the conclusion that my high school was fiercely polarized, especially when it came to politics. As my time in high school progressed and I became more and more educated and angry with our president, my alertness was at an all-time high for people’s opinions. One day in Honors Government, my teacher had us split ourselves into those who believed they were liberal and those who believed they were conservative. Maybe that class polarized our grade even more, but I didn’t care. It showed how people thought, especially during Trump’s presidency. Looking back, I’m surprised I didn’t throw up, scream, and cry when I saw those who were not afraid to show their true colors in regard to Trump, not just in the classroom, but pretty much all around the school’s premises.
I don’t know how much detail I need to get into, but maybe the image of a truck(s) with a confederate flag(s) on them will allow you to get the picture. The worst part about it was that it was normal. On a typical day, I would walk into school with a waving Confederate flag in my peripheral vision. And I thought that was normal.
Donald Trump has allowed racism and homophobia to run amok yet again in the United States.
It’s normal. I guess.
As a Gen-Z woman, I thought my peers’ political viewpoints would be the same as mine. The world has been evolving into a more liberal place, or so I thought, before remembering I grew up in Pennsylvania, one of the greatest swing states in the nation (thank you, 2020 election). Living in a place where I drive down the street and see a pattern of Biden and Trump signs in front of every other house has opened my eyes to the real world. As much as I wish everyone could see eye to eye on politics, that isn’t the case nowadays. It saddens me beyond belief, but it’s the reality of not just living in Pennsylvania, but living in the United States.
With all of that said, I somehow remain optimistic for the future. Attending a public university, meeting more and more people that feel the same way as me, and learning from liberal professors has allowed me to take a deep breath; there are sane people in the world that are capable of empathy. Maybe we will finally get back to “normal.”
But what is normalcy? To those of you that are a bit older and have more lifetime under your belt like my father, normalcy might just be living in a world with a sane president. A world when the main communication of presidential alerts is not sending messages through a casual, seemingly non-relevant platform known as Twitter. A world where people actually care for and respect one another.
Wow, wouldn’t that be nice right now.
Valerie Davis is a Media and Professional Communications Major at the University of Pittsburgh. She is very passionate about politics, theater, and food. In her free time, she enjoys writing, reading, and watching Marvel or Harry Potter.