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An Original Piece
by Kate Healy
The reality show crawled out of the TV.
And we can’t
(we want to be right so fast)
The only way to be right is to be above it which no one is we can no longer choose to be far away, and it just doesn’t work anymore to be secretly obsessed with feeling helpless because it lets us off
something else is letting but it shouldn’t be us.
Get your mind right.
Someone told you two truths and a lie:
you can be whatever you want to be
you are safe
you are free
Remember to pick for yourself, or discard and make new, at least translate, all the words are ready to change.
An Original Essay
by Dana Omar
For as long as I have lived, I have been a supreme nerd.
This is not new information to anyone who knows me. A crossbreed of nerd and dork, actually. A lover of fantasy, cartoons, graphic novels, science, history, etc. My favorite thing in the entire world is to sit outside in my backyard and get lost in the complicated worlds of good vs. evil.
The most interesting stories are the ones that portray our hero to be flawed. These heroes notoriously have good intentions but they keep fucking up. Their metaphorical mask is crooked. Heroes are more realistic when they are flawed therefore making the material more accessible to us. It’s because the choices that we make in real life are often not simple but quite the opposite: complicated, weighted and filled with consequences. We recognize the plight of a flawed hero more than any other hero.
Where there is a hero there is a villain.
This was not just an election. This was not just one more corrupt candidate who talked about unifying America but then lied about a bunch of shit. This man said and did horrific things that were recorded and broadcast to the entire world behind his platform. Exclusion. Mocking disabilities. Racism. All behind a podium that read “TRUMP” on it. The mega-millionaire that got the people to believe him: A modern day Kingpin. I recognized this pure form of evil from both history and fantasy. Suddenly I felt like I was in the books I grew up with except I didn’t feel like everything would be okay. This felt like an alternate X-Men timeline where everything went to shit.
And while Hillary was less than ideal, she was our tragic hero. She was the flawed but ultimately good protagonist that was supposed to save the day. Her fall from grace was the most difficult thing to be a part of. Even the most sadistic fantasy writers wouldn’t put this upon their readers (well maybe G.R.R.M.). Real life is a bitch, isn’t it? So now we are here. A man who insulted everyone who looked and sounded different than him is now going to be the president.
So now who is the hero?
Well, it’s us. We save ourselves.
We all joked about leaving but I think we all know the right thing to do. I don’t mean grandiose gestures of saving the train full of helpless New Yorkers from derailing with your spider web power (I still have trouble believing that one, Marvel). I mean doing the nitty gritty work of investing in all the rights and freedoms we deserve that are at stake. Donating. Organizing. Protesting. Calling the very people that were voted into office to work for YOU. It is important to remember that these things aren’t mutually exclusive. You can commit to more than one project. In addition to that, on a day to day basis when you see something: say something. If you are quiet, you are letting the injustice exist in a world where it should not. People of all kinds need our help: we all need to start thinking about everyone’s rights and not just our own.
One of the largest hurdles we have to face are the naysayers. The naysayers will tell you to stop. I don’t mean the insane flagrant white supremacists because those people are beyond reason or logic. I mean the people that are either in full denial about everything that is happening in our country right now or their privilege blinds them. They want to live in the same world that they had lived in previously, so they will ignore the hate crimes (and Trump’s many transgressions) or downplay them because it doesn’t directly affect them (for now). Just remember that these are the same people that probably think privilege, racism and sexism don’t exist and have probably thought that for a while. They will tell you that there’s no reason to fight back. Just give him a chance. These people are the ones in our comic books that believed every news outlet when they said Batman was a menace. For someone to tell you to not do something because they somehow miraculously know the outcome is ludicrous.
Nothing about this world is predictable. Take a look at this election for example. No one thought that this man would win. Most people gave him a 15 percent chance, IF that. So let me tell you so you can hear it loud and clear:
Your protesting isn’t useless.
Your petitions aren’t useless.
Your boycotts aren’t useless.
Your vote isn’t useless.
Your phone calls and letters and emails aren’t useless.
Don’t let the good that you do be judged by anyone. The most productive way through this is not to spend time criticizing other people's actions, but instead, to invest time in your own. Focus on how you can make our country and the world a better place. Don’t focus on how you can cut other people down because they want to march in the streets to express how outraged they are. Because yes, nothing about this world is predictable but at the end of the day we know in our heart of hearts what is fundamentally right and that is worth the effort.
This country’s heartbeat is longing for equality. You can feel it pulse in the same dirt our ancestors walked on when they came to this country. You can feel it in the current soil of North Dakota where our Native Americans are still waiting to be heard. The people that came before us and the people that stand to lose their rights currently deserve our fight. We owe them that. I will say it again for the cheap seats in the back: we all need to start thinking about everyone’s rights and not just our own.
So get out there. Stay Vigilant. Stay Strong in your Convictions. Be safe. Put that metaphorical mask on or real one I don’t care. As long as you get to work.
by Christoph Ziegler
A kind of hell in heaven then appears,
The darker matter in our paradise.
Unseen through time until a man reveres
A chance for life so painfully precise
As ticking down the hour to his descent,
Then sending doom to flaccid, hate filled woes.
The lifeblood of his fancies all but spent,
Too burdened by the harshness of his foes.
An advent of such mad and bitter times
Might many see while strolling down the street.
Extremist force towards those of baseless crimes
Committed in an all too common heat.
There are no answers, everyone will hurt,
Until our youth lie buried in the dirt.
With hatred kind, and anger oh so vapid,
Most worthy of a wise man’s non reply,
The tastes of man grow ever more so sapid,
With cloying virulence none can deny.
Depressing coldly on these troubled yokes
Of masses all too massive to dismiss,
An incoherent understanding soaks
Into the cracks which form the vast abyss
Called ignorance, in all its shallow dark;
A bottomless excuse for disregard.
The deaf hear not the cries of doubt, but hark!
Our muteness speaks the choices we discard.
Does hope retain its optimistic hue?
Behold the dawn of doubting, right on cue.
Inadequate, and left without a choice
The silent destitute protest their lot.
Such ignorance of wealth thus steals their voice,
Yet claims such thievery as fairly bought.
The trickle down, a shake down in disguise.
The poisoned well of welfare all but fair.
A righteous man knows well he can despise,
Yet left without the voice to rage, despair
Thus settles in, and sows its seeds of doubt,
Then fertilizes them with debt and time.
Such seeds then grow to weeds amidst the drought
Of justice, just a word unknown to crime.
How long can many break their lives for few?
Abuse of power’s really nothing new.
If right was wrought with wrong yet still claimed right,
And good was fraught with evil all the while,
Would opposites go turncoat just for spite?
Would friends choose selfish action over style?
Forgoing all the rules and schools of thought
Gives berth to newfound perks and works of art.
Repeating all the facts and acts well taught
Gives birth to routine far too mean of heart.
Opposing not their goals of noble aim,
But rather, how their actions fail to show
The righteous truth, too wild in tooth to tame
Or entertain domestic friend or foe.
A righteous sin may save a million souls,
But damns them to a million hopeless goals.
With insufficient nothing in his hands,
A boy takes arms against a sea of woes.
Such violent tides will weather him to lands
Where men take lives on killing sprees of foes.
To learn a lesson well is cause enough
To pay attention, lest we pay in tears.
To yearn for less than what we would rebuff
Delays these lifelong lessons over years.
Or centuries, for those immortal rules,
Which govern us, unconsciously unchecked.
Submission to their limits permits fools
To unconcern themselves with what’s correct.
Another war-torn hell borne jubilee?
Postponement everlasting, guarantee!
I’m born as white, and so I might not know,
Specifically, what if my freedom’s less?
You’re born as black, so likely you can show
Horrifically, the difference I don’t stress.
I’m born a man, so I could plan to live
With perks that shirk a woman’s aptitude.
Now could I? Yeah. But would I? Nah. I’d give
No cause to pause with preaching platitude.
For pigment hue has naught to do with worth;
Nor gender made to render out our fates; that’s
A figment grew and bought wholesale at birth;
An end to how to send love we create.
The cause that was and is my vision clear,
Give pause to all, because you love severe.
by Michelle Sauer
Bio: Born and currently residing in St. Louis, Missouri, I am a visual artist with a delicate aesthetic. I create art that reflects my internal thoughts or struggles. I see the world with balance; eternally aware of both the good and the bad. I tend to work two-dimensionally with painting or drawing media.
My work has been exhibited in St. Louis and I have been hired to complete original art for a variety of patrons.
I currently work as an elementary art teacher in Saint. Charles, Missouri.
But I Just Keep Breathing
by Rachel Livingston
Today, I stand on a train. Trembling. Terrified. Surrounded by people who look just like me. We are rejects. Speeding off into a destination unknown.
First stop: Auschwitz.
I hold a tissue in one hand and my heart in the other, asking WHY WHY WHY. Why can't you see this heart is beating. Why can't you see this is my blood spilling. Why can't you see this is the same beating heart that lies deep within you.
Next stop: Ferguson.
I am surrounded by rejects. By people just like me. With hearts just like mine. Their bodies litter the floor. Their dreams litter your agenda. We are speeding off into a destination unknown.
Next stop: Orlando.
They tell us to breathe. To take a deep breath. It will all get better. It will all get better in time. But I keep breathing. And I keep breathing. And nothing gets better. Nothing ever gets better. But still I stand, on this train, full speed ahead, with my heart in my hands for all to see, questioning WHY WHY WHY, until my dying breath. Until my dying breath.
Final stop: Washington D.C.
Bio: Rachel Livingston hails from a boulevard of broken dreams otherwise known as Pence-governed Indiana. She is a Chicagoan actor, barista, and Facebook activist.
An original piece
The day after Donald Trump became the President-Elect of the United States, I was sexually assaulted in his name. A young, white man who was not intoxicated grabbed my butt so strongly as to leave bruises that look like finger prints. As he was reaching around to the front, he yelled, “If my president can grab pussy, so can I.” There were four witnesses - all white men - who looked away. This was at a bus stop in broad daylight in an ostensibly liberal city in a blue state on the West Coast.
Earlier that day, a post collating sexist tweets expressing similar sentiments to the catcall hurled at me was circulating on Facebook. I nabbed it. I had seen several of my white male friends posting jokes and making light of the election results and wanted to demonstrate just how serious the results were for many, many people. I posted the collection of tweets celebrating men’s freedom to grope any woman they liked now that Trump is in charge, pleading with the white men making sarcastic jokes to stop and realize how serious the ramifications of this election are for vulnerable people.
A white man commented that it was “just as” sexist and racist to blame white men because it’s a huge generalization and instead insisted I rephrase to an even broader generalization: refer to the white men making sarcastic jokes as “the people” who are making sexist jokes. Another white man’s comment echoed similar thoughts. To be fair, one white man did attempt to explain how the first two men’s response was oppressive and part of the problem; the first two men attacked him, too.
It’s not women’s responsibility to educate men on sexism, but sexism and misogyny will end when men want it to end. Women have been checking up on each other, reaching out to each other and making sure we all get to where we’re going safely, but the reasons we have to do that will not become irrelevant until men use their power on behalf of real equality, not just equal application of the term sexism. Such will not be possible until men and women are socially, economically and politically equal to one another, but it’s painful that this is how some white men would rather use their power. And it’s painful that such statements usually cause more infighting and vitriol than they do discussion, especially since they’re true.
The first time I was on the losing side of a presidential election was the first one I was old enough to vote in. I voted Democrat in 2004 and I watched Kerry’s defeat at the student union building of the university I was attending in a swing state between my Latina friend and my black, gay friend. As it became apparent that we were going to have four more years of George W. Bush, both my friends began to sob. It was the first time I had feeling that my vote, my voice, may not matter (the state swung red that year). When I saw Francesa in class a week later, she was still dismayed but she had found the will to fight; Jerrell expressed similar sentiments. These are different times.
The number of calls to suicide hotlines the day after the election hit record highs. People are terrified and struggling with despair in a way no one remembers seeing before. At the same time, no comforting words, apologies or reassurances of safety have been given; simply claiming one is not racist or sexist is insufficient. If the people who demanded their voice be heard in this election also fail to use it on behalf of people Trump has targeted, they may get away with it a little while longer. But they can’t expect not to be seen as sexist, racist, bigoted. Similarly, hurling insults and name calling will no nothing toward the work that actually needs to be done. On some level, the America Trump envisions has been the America women, people of color, disabled people, members of the LBT+ and Latinx communities and all minorities have always lived in. If people with power and privilege - white people, men, straight people, cis people, Evangelical Christians - want to use this power to perpetuate or ignore violence, they may be falsely legitimized a little while longer.
But we do not have to reconcile with our abusers. It is not “divisive” to refuse to go along to get along when the goal It is not “divisive” to refuse to go along to get along when the humanity of vulnerable people is dismissed by those in power. The calls for unity are self-serving if they don’t include a commitment to act on behalf of the marginalized and targeted. The demand that we all “come together” now are empty at best if they are not accompanied by genuine apologies and sustained action for social, racial, economic and environmental healing, equality and justice.
Bio: In addition to blogging at http://mnicolerwildhood.com, m.nicole.r.wildhood's work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Atticus Review, Five and elsewhere. She seeks to be an advocate for those experiencing mental or emotional distress, currently writes for Seattle’s street newspaper Real Change and is at work on a novel and several volumes of poetry, including one in Spanish.
"This piece is to showcase the inner rage of women and the demand for gender equality"
by Ryan Fryoux, "a pissed-off Image Maker."
"Today is getting pulled over, palms sticky, pink white, flesh and not afraid but annoyed."
by Lauren Stork
(TW for police brutality and state violence in general.)
What a fucking benign word. Passive. Privilege is something I have. Or, better yet, I have privilege. See, progress as a white woman means being the first, stepping through doors that white men have closed and closed and closed-or more accurately, not bothered to prop open.
How can we not see that the door has a key? Several keys, in fact. We don’t hand them out easily or equally. Some are rusted, some are missing teeth, most of the time we act like people should already have them. We forget the ways in which those keys have been passed down through generations, that some of us have a whole bag and when we lose one we just swap it for a brand new version.
Today is getting pulled over, in New York. A state with 179 NYPD involved deaths. A state where there has only been 3 indictments. The state of things.
I remember planning a road trip in college, a friend of ours, a quirky, silly, beautiful engineer, quietly mentioned that he wouldn’t be driving through several states-and listed them. An ingrained thought, a pre-requisite: To plan the places you think you might die for driving while black.
Meanwhile we’re in a state of emergency. Maybe the paradigm shifted when you were in elementary, hot in a stifling Catholic school, confused by grainy bodies falling falling. Why are we watching this? Bush’s crayola waxy words, rhetoric spun as fragile as sugar-an American flag still in the background, buildings collapsing in a tiny box at the bottom. Gray, gray, and brutal. Tragedy turned into dangerous nationalism, into a symptom of a rotten foundation, pillars crumbling underneath the cardigan wearing, apple pie myths.
Maybe you better remember a time before a brown man’s beard or a hijab meant terror, before ‘America!’ became a synonym for white.
Today is getting pulled over. Wondering about the people we detain in the name of security, about the people we shoot and sometimes mourn and forget.
“How did he get so far?” Orange and anger soaked. Voice billowing through the TV, sounding like every man at the bar that doesn’t realize that your turned away back means leave me the fuck alone. Steeped in a cesspool of bootstraps, rusting beliefs, and hats with slogans that really mean harm to anyone who is not you.
How could we let him run our country?
How did we get to this state of things?
How? How how?
We are built on ground stolen, and blood bloated. Buildings scrape the sky, but the bones of people taken, and enslaved rest where we see only prosperity and greatness. How could that foundation not be an incubator for this brand new world where people wish for a return to a state of things that never even existed?
At least not for all of us.
Privilege. An insular suit of protection, a backpack of tricks, a way to move through the world unscathed without noticing the ways others collect cuts and brambles.
A student tells me she’s worried her brother will become a hashtag.
My university grows brand new grafitti-black and red on concrete-“make america great again!”
Strangers bleed last breathes in the street with unfeeling hearts standing by, still and silent as asphalt and stair wells become tombs.
We consume black death like dessert, dissect things frame by frame in order to pretend things really aren’t that bad. We talk about the border as if there isn’t already a wall of hatred and blood there.
I get pulled over going the wrong way down a one way, three drinks in.
“Mam, are you lost?”
“It’s two left and you’re on your way.”
If only we could get everyone home safe. If only we could get everyone a key.
Bio: Lauren Stork, Working at a nonprofit in Upstate New York, just trying to sew together my activism and my art.
The Faults on the Left
by Alex Ostroff
The first person I blamed was myself.
I was mad that I had peddled hope and change while those who knew better had been showing me the ugliness and pain.
I was mad that I had believed in ideas and dreams that were no less mortal than the people who had delivered them to me in beautiful, pitch-perfect speeches.
I was mad that I had trusted in data and statistics as some sort of last vestige of truth, a solid rock to cling to amidst the waves of doubt.
But soon I was blaming the people delivering those speeches.
You told me hope and change, you told me to bet on us, you told me the arc of history bends towards justice? Where did YOU go wrong? Who misled you?
I defended the slowness of your gait, the careful way you approached the world and the people. I thought our goal was slow but steady movement. Two steps forward. One step back. Steady.
This was one step forward and five steps back. This was chaotic. This was backwards.
You told me we couldn’t have radical change. But we’ve been radically changing. Should have realized we’d be swept up in the maelstrom whether we liked it or not.
I blamed our parents, who insisted our hopes were too high.
We’ll never know if Bernie could have won. But the unending, resounding, insistent cry of his skeptics was that Hillary was a sure thing.
She was not. She never was. And we were shown that to be true again and again and again and again. And she’s lost now for the last time. The most critical time.
You who strived through Civil Rights movements, Vietnam, and Goldwater. You who watched the world change as you fought for it. You told us we had made it. We were fine. We were a steady ship, heading for harbor.
No more. Our turn to talk. Our turn to be right. This is another time for choosing, and it’s our time, and this is the last systemic failure I needed. The system is broken. Many, many systems are broken. 9/11 brought us to 11/9. We never understood what had happened. We have not attacked our problems with the intensity they required.
I blamed my radical peers, who vilified Hillary in ways that were unconscionable.
From whose supporters did we first hear about the rigged election?
When did the first cries of “Lock Her Up” boom around an auditorium?
Who insisted over, and over, and over again, that the choice between a Neoliberal and a Fascist was a false choice?
Does it feel false now?
My constant refrain, the point I continually insisted on, was that we must not make Hillary a cartoon villain. Do you understand why now? The public saw two cartoon villains and chose the one who made them laugh and cry and feel. Just because your candidate could do those things too, doesn’t justify what you helped turn Hillary into.
The stories you used changed along with the changing tides of this election. Trump is up? Of course he is, Bernie would be winning. Trump is down? Of course he is, vote for Jill because Hillary can’t lose.
When your story changes week by week to further your own ends, we see through you. We see the conspiracies as they infect your coalition. The smaller chance you had of victory, the more hysterical the cries of voter fraud.
You may have been right much of the time. But if you are unwilling to see the ways you helped this monster to power, I have no interest in any fingers you feel like pointing.
I blamed the media, who lulled us into security, and barraged us with a horse race.
I never thought this could happen. I inhaled media in a way I never have before in my life, and I could not anticipate this. Could not prepare myself. Could not deal.
When Comey came out with that letter the week before we chose, was it worth the clicks you got for breathlessly reporting whatever headline you could?
Hey Joe and Mika, still excited you called this right? Still feel fine about your sick fascination with Donald?
I hope you made a pretty penny, Mr. Moonves. Your rabid middle-American fans will thank you. They can watch Big Bang Theory without any fears of an ISIS attack on their doorstep. Wonderful.
Megyn Kelly, good job standing up to the wackos in your party. I saw the glee in your eyes as Trump’s victory was assured. You knew what this meant for you. You understood the perfect position you’ve been thrust into. Any network would have you. You could pivot to any opinion as needed. Whatever will pay you best. Congrats.
Shame on you Saturday Night Live, for normalizing a threat to our Republic. No amount of Alec Baldwin can make up for the real thing. It’s not even close.
We are all at fault. But we have to move forward.
The above was catharsis, but it will stay here in this text. These faults will tear us apart if we let them. They’re too potent. They burn. They erupt from the losses of this horrific year. The debates laid dormant by an urgent need to win have burst forth again in our grief. We need to vent, we need to see, but then we need to get over it. None of it matters. We all fucked up. But there are many of us who understand what has just happened to the country. We need to figure out who we are, and explain why we’re right. In new ways, and to new people. We can’t afford to come apart now.
Bio: Alex Ostroff, Brown University Class of 2014, AB in Computer Science. Passionate about people, politics, art, storytelling, and technology.