Michigan's New Normal
People don’t follow leaders. They follow ideas. Almost one year into this global pandemic, just the idea of a normal day stimulates the imagination and kindles hope. ‘Normal’ has become the new panacea—everything will be ok when we’re ‘back to normal’. It’s human nature to resist adapting to change. Unless current conditions are intolerable, holding on to ‘now’ is comfortable; it is known. For some individuals, the fear of navigating uncertainty is overwhelming. The pandemic abruptly threatened everything we knew and felt about normal life. Leaders who sell the idea of a ‘new normal’ will find a following. But, will the post-pandemic normal bring forward sins of the past, or will we create a more equitable reality?
Change means loss. At first, we denied the severity of COVID-19, thinking it would last a couple of weeks. Then some of us got angry because of the uncertainty about how to navigate everyday things: work, school, technology, healthcare, restaurants, grocery stores, etc. Then, we began to bargain with ourselves and our loved ones over masks, bubbles, and safety. At times, we may feel depressed and hopeless. These feelings are healthy and useful. These mental gymnastics allow us to pave our path to a ‘new normal’. This is the process of grieving, letting go of the old, and imagining a new way of living.
Now is the time for elected officials to lead by working together to convince us that life will be better and a new and better normal is on its way. They need to sell us on the idea that a post-pandemic normal means they will spend time wisely, set priorities based on community, and hold themselves accountable to represent us.
We’ve learned through the loss of family members, friends, and our own lives that time is the only thing we have. How we spend our time defines us. It sets priorities. Time spent imagining a new tomorrow is the only way out of the anger, frustration, and hopelessness.
In today’s highly partisan State politics, Michigan Republicans are holding Federal funds hostage, attempting to overturn election results already certified, and stripping the administration of executive powers. This is how Republicans exercise power over teachers, voters, and the executive branch. This style of governing is ‘power OVER people’ versus ‘power WITH people’.
Imagine a post-pandemic government where the idea of sharing power WITH people is the norm. The best example of Michiganders following this idea is the 2018 Voters Not Politicians (VNP) proposal that passed overwhelmingly to create a nonpartisan redistricting commission to draw political boundaries. VNP wasn’t led by one person. It was led by the idea of fairness in representation. Through the power of the movement, WITH people, the commission is a reality. It is our new normal. So, instead of one party having full control over where lines are drawn, the people decide.
Our systems are fragile. We need strong decisive leaders who bring big ideas that propel Michigan forward so that we are prepared for our future. The 2020 experience showed us the need for equity in all of our social, political, and economic systems. How we prioritize the needs of our communities determines if we are a place that chooses “people over power” or “power over people”. Will our new normal celebrate humanity or discard those of a certain caste? Will we demand fair treatment in the doctor’s office, at the bank, and in the street? Will we choose a ‘select few’ or build a bigger table so all voices can be heard?
Our moment is here. It is upon us. Stand up and let your voice be heard. You define how time is spent, you set the priorities, and you make Michigan’s new normal. Get involved in your community today.