Everyone keeps talking about things going "back to normal" after COVID-19 has slowed down and social distancing orders are finished. Everyone wants everything to go "back to normal", but I don't.
"Normal" is what got us into this situation in the first place. It was our country refusing to take international issues seriously until they became domestic issues. It was our selfishness saying "that's a Wuhan problem" and then "that's an Italian problem" until it became an American problem. It was us refusing to help our global community fight a virus that we saw was killing thousands because it wasn't killing us quite yet. It was us refusing to prepare ourselves for when the virus became an American problem.
"Normal" is what created a healthcare system that was not prepared for an influx of patients. It was too few hospital beds, too few ventilators, too few masks, too little protective equipment for healthcare workers. It was what allowed for there to even be a debate about whether sick people should have to pay for their coronavirus treatment as healthcare costs are too high and medical insurance is difficult to get and to afford.
"Normal" is what maintained a minimum wage for eleven years and didn't account for rising costs of living. It put the workers making that wage that barely allows them to survive on the frontlines of a deadly virus. It said those workers, who are now considered essential, were unskilled and undeserving of higher pay.
"Normal" is what created a government that cares more about its economy than its citizens. It put selfish people in power who don't care if people are dying as long as big businesses are still making money. It put people into power who are so out of touch with reality that they think $1200 is enough for people to live off of for months. It made unemployment difficult to file for. It made food, water, a home, and life seem like privileges rather than a right.
"Normal" is what created such an unjust society that institutionalized, systemic racism is still the norm. It's killing people of color at alarming rates. It's so ingrained in us that we don't even notice it, and when we do, we choose to justify it rather than fight for change.
"Normal" failed us. It killed us. Going back to it after quarantine is over will allow the status quo to continue to fail us over and over again. This virus has shown us the shortcomings of this country. It has shown us that we cannot remain complicit with "normal".
So yes, I want quarantine to end and for this nightmarish virus to be gone. I want to go to restaurants, movie theaters, and back to school. I want to see my friends and hug my grandparents. But I don't want to go back to normal. Doing so would be ignoring the cause of the disease and continuing to just treat the symptoms. Doing so would be ignoring everything that this virus has shown us and refusing to learn crucial lessons.
I don't want "normal". I want better.