Not Normal

I dreamt last night that I watched a mushroom cloud rise up above my city.

This is the type of dream I would have had in elementary school, when we were taught to hide under our small wooden desks — the kind with a lid and a compartment underneath which held our books, pencils, papers, treasures.

But this dream came decades later, long past the Cold War. Yesterday we celebrated our nation’s independence in a small NE Oregon ranching town, sitting on a curb along Main Street as a short, wholesome parade marched by.

Two tween girls dressed in independence regalia pulled and prodded Snow White the cow, who wore red, white and blue sweatbands on each of her four legs. Kids riding bikes festooned with flags and streamers skidded down the short three blocks artfully managing the distance between them and the pickup truck of veterans in front of them, where elderly men dressed in short sleeved, button up shirts sat on benches, wearing the hats and pins of those that served. A long line of emergency vehicles slowly paraded through with sirens on — the sheriff, the ambulance, and a whole host of fire trucks — the latter of which received the most applause as the wildfire season is upon us.

I laughed aloud when one of the fire trucks – this one looked more like a common semi with a water tank – sprayed a large water spout straight up to the sky where it appeared to be suspended for a brief moment, before crashing down on eager children, seeking a soak in this 90 degree day.

Something I’ve noticed about this small town is that politics are not loudly displayed. I’m sure people have their opinions (67.6% of Wallowa County voted for Trump) but they go about their business. I once brought Kyle home to the Maxwelton Beach parade in Langley — those were the Bush days, which seem tame now – and the artists and hippies of my youth (now weathered boomers) joined the parade with anti-Bush signs and giant paper mache puppets. I heard disgust expressed by some in the crowd who felt this wasn’t the time or place. This was how I grew up – you were vocal about our country’s flaws because it was your right.

Back in Oregon, as an adult long obsessed with politics and currently beaten down by political drama that is making a mockery of the democratic values I hold dear, I appreciated the Wallowa approach – small town, candy tossed from trucks, hallowed ground for veterans, firefighters, small children, sun, water, red, white and blue, and a break from disagreement.

So to then fall alsleep that night in a tent under a dark sky still blowing warm heat along a swollen mountain river, I was not expecting to dream of nuclear war.

In the dream, I am not in my city but I can see it from a distance. I’m at a workshop — I’m not sure for what — and surrounded with the usual dream-induced oddity of acquaintances that if I shared with these people in real life “you were in my dream last night,” they would find it creepy. We watched in horror asking one another if our families were ok.

As I urgently gathered my things, I formulated a plan to reunite with my family — I would drive to our remote and tiny parcel of land in Oregon ranching country and wait. Surely if my family were alive, they would flee there to meet me.

I awoke to the sound of the rushing river, the sun streaming in the tent, magpies and western tanagers singing their morning songs, my husband at my side, my kids safely with their grandparents on the other side of the country.

This is the lunacy of our current political environment — that on Independence Day mothers dream of nuclear war. A president who threatens freedom of the press, who dismisses the judiciary branch, who disregards the legislative process, who bullies from behind his device, who winks at racists and bigots, and whose lackeys bob their heads with forced smiles next to him because they’d rather have the power now then be on the right side of history later. Behavior by grown men that would be abhorrent if our children mimicked it…and mimic it they will.

This is not normal. We must not normalize it.

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