I Hope We Don't Return To Normal

"Pop quiz, hotshot."

Speed is a 1994 action movie about a bomb on a bus. If the bus’ speed drops below 55 miles-per-hour, the bomb explodes. Keanu Reeves’ character, a rash cop named Jack, helps get all the bus passengers to safety while catching the bad guy. Annie, a passenger, played by Sandra Bullock, ends up driving the bus for most of the film. After they escape the bus right before it crashes into an airline tanker truck, Annie and Jack share a moment.

Annie: You're not going to get mushy on me, are you?
Jack: Maybe. I might.
Annie: I hope not, 'cause you know, relationships that start under intense circumstances, they never last.
Jack: Oh yeah?
Annie: Yeah, I've done extensive study on this.

Annie was correct; her relationship with Jack did not last. Keanu Reeves was not part of the ill-advised Speed 2: Cruise Control about an out of control cruise ship. Annie, along with another male lead, saved the day without Jack.

Just like Annie predicted, crisis and tragedy bring people together.

When crisis strikes, be it natural disaster or mass-shooting, communities rally together. For a time, that community is at the forefront of everyone’s minds regardless of their home.

For weeks after the Pulse shooting here in Orlando, well-wishes and donations poured in from around the country. Banners proclaiming #OrlandoUnited and #OrlandoStrong flew around the worldThousands of people came together locally to remember those lost and vowed never to let hate win again.

Right now, we’re all experiencing a shared tragedy. And not just here in the United States. For the first time in our lives, everyone in the world is living through a shared global crisis.

Every day the number of people infected and succumbing to the COVID-19 coronavirus continues to grow. The global pandemic is revealing multiple inadequacies with healthcare systems and governments across the planet.

Despite the bad news, humanity is uniting through our shared tragedy.

While many of us stay home except for essential activities, we’re finding new ways to unite. Families share FaceTime meals, friends gather for Zoom Happy Hour, and strangers are share photos out their windows. These, and the thousands of others, are ways we’re connecting through this shared crisis. New relationships are forming and others are strengthening as we all cope with the shared tragedy. 

Yet, Annie’s warning from 1994 holds: Relationships that start under intense circumstances rarely last. And, let’s face it, our track record isn’t fantastic.

A few weeks after Pulse, the national media grew tired of the story and moved onto something else. As the cameras left, so did the widespread calls for unity and connection. Then, when tragedy struck elsewhere, the cycle repeated.

When we make it through our current pandemic, humanity will approach a fork in the road. One road, the path we usually pick, brings us back to normal. It leads back to our separate ways of life until the next shared tragedy strikes. The other path, well, it forges ahead on trails we're carving today.

This path focuses on unity. It means caring more about the things that unite us than those that divide. This path means living as a community, regardless of our place of birth or current residence. Taking this new trail means uniting to ensure governments treat essential workers the same as they treat CEOs. This path continues to unite and advocate for healthcare as a fundamental human right and not a political bargaining chip. Choosing the path of unity leads to a continued focus on good news over-sensationalized programming to capture eyeballs and sell ads. 

Selecting the new way means forgetting what was “normal” before coronavirus and living into our collective humanity.

I hope we don’t return to normal. I hope we chose the united path instead.

Thank you for reading. If you would like more essays like this, please consider paying for a subscription. Paid subscriptions directly support my writing.

Donut Holes

Here are a few things I’ve enjoyed lately:

If I Wrote a Coronavirus Episode by Maria Elena Fernandez in Vulture

How would TV’s most beloved characters navigate social distancing in these dark days? We posed that question to dozens of showrunners, creators, and writers; 37 of them responded with scene scripts, monologues, and episode outlines.

Crazy Easy Homemade Artisan Bread (Only 4 Ingredients!) by It’s Always Autumn

You won’t believe how easy it is to make this beautiful homemade artisan bread! Only 4 ingredients and about 5 minutes of hands-on time for a gorgeous loaf that looks like it came from a bakery.

You’re Allowed to Grieve the Year That Would’ve Been by Candice Marie Benbow in Zora

This year will look nothing like what we thought it would, but it can become more than what we imagined.

Write Now with Michael Shermer by me in The Writing Cooperative

I want to make the world a better place, and as such I believe it is ideas that move people to act, so I am in the ideas business.