The Story of Norm

I wrote this essay for my gender and race class. It was difficult to write it in this way because it is in first person. But I took a chance on it and it paid off. I was very excited today when it was chosen as one of the favorites by my instructor and he read it aloud to the class. When I got it back the grade was 100/100. It’s pretty long, but I didn’t want to chop it up.

The Story of Norm

Hello. My name is Norm. I am no different from you. Actually, I am you. I have lived a long time and seen a lot of change. I tend to think I am right and everyone else is wrong. They are probably not as smart as I am either. I am very concerned with comfort and keeping things the way they already are. I am quite set in my ways and think that you should be too. My job is to try to keep “them” out and “us” in. It is very hard to change my habits. Often I will argue and fight with you to maintain my belief system and not change my behavior. But as is the case with most people, new information and a lot of introspection and discomfort later, I will change with the times. Often to the point where I can’t believe I acted the way I did way back then. I live here with you. I also have relatives living all over the world. But they don’t act like I do. They can’t help it; they don’t know any better.

When I was a younger man, I lived in Salem, Massachusetts. At that time I was mightily threatened by free thinking intelligent women. I considered it an acceptable practice to convict these women of the crime of witchcraft and burn them alive to make sure that they comported themselves properly. Of course, I would never do that now.

Before that and for a long time afterward I kept slaves. Black people were savages and not considered to be people by me and most of my friends. We were white, wealthy landowners who needed cheap labor to run our plantations and farms. I didn’t think that they could be allowed to be free. I even convinced myself that they were a danger to themselves if they weren’t protected by me and my kind. Really, it was for their own safety. And mine, of course. They couldn’t be trusted. Not only would they rise up in rebellion if given physical freedoms, they would do so if given intellectual freedoms. So I didn’t let them read, either. They had to be controlled so that their savage desires wouldn’t be allowed to wreak havoc on civilized society. It took hundreds of years and a devastating war to change my mind. Of course, I would never do that now.

Women have always needed protecting as well. They are so emotional and fragile. We never let them think for themselves. We couldn’t let them own property or make any decisions of any real consequence. They wouldn’t have been able to handle it. Their sensibilities are too delicate. They wouldn’t want any responsibilities any way. They are concerned with the bearing and rearing of children. They are so good at that and the upkeep of the home. They needn’t concern themselves with the bigger picture. It’s really beyond them. The suffragettes rallied and made those opinions almost obsolete in the 1920’s when women were given the right to vote. Of course, I would never think that way now.

It took another hundred years after the Civil War to convince me that I still wasn’t treating black people well enough. Segregation was in place until the 1960’s when Dr. King and his contemporaries were able to raise enough of a ruckus to instigate change on that front. The Civil Rights Movement finally convinced me to allow black people to integrate socially and legally with people like me. We let them, after much persuasion and argument, go to our schools and live in our neighborhoods and mingle with us freely. We even let them play on our sports teams with us. That turned out to be a good idea because they are so good at them. I’m surprised we didn’t do this earlier. I can’t believe I thought that way before. Thank goodness, I will never act that way again.

Around that same time, the Feminist Movement was on the rise. Women felt that we weren’t treating them fairly. We had given them the vote, but, apparently that wasn’t good enough for them. They thought they should be allowed to go to college and have careers. They ought to be able to choose whether or not they had children. They burned their bras as symbols of our restriction of them. I have to admit that I agreed that women’s breasts should be unfettered. I was slower to jump on board with the rest of it. Women are nurturers by nature. They are predisposed by biology and God to be less aggressive and more tender in their thoughts and feelings. They still need to be protected from themselves and the harsh world. Eventually, I was made to see that perhaps they should be allowed to make their own choices as to how protected they wanted to be. That it might be okay for them to be allowed into the workforce in greater numbers. That it would not bring about the ruination of civilized society if mother weren’t only relegated to the home. They could go out and have a career and a life outside of the home without it damaging the children of the world unduly. I know better now. I’ll never think like that again.

In the course of Northern European/American history, it has really been a good idea to look like me. As a heterosexual, Christian, white male I can’t see any reason why anyone would choose to live their life any other way. If you can be white, you should. In the past we have not tended to treat people of color very well. When we immigrated to this country, as the saying goes: we prayed first upon our knees and then upon the Indians. They of course had no idea what hit them. They were a bunch of godless heathens who didn’t even have the sense to own the land they lived on. Really, we had to pity them and help them to make a new life on the land that we gave them, one where they should try to be more like us. We outlawed their religious practices and languages in order to help them assimilate. It was for their own good. At least, that’s what I believed then. Praise God, I no longer think like that.

It takes a while for anyone new or “other” to be allowed into my society. I have a history of discriminating against Italians, the Irish, Asians-really, anybody who might look or talk different had better look out when they come here. That comedian George Carlin had a funny skit about me. He said that brown people should look out for us white Americans. He said that we mostly like to bomb countries that are full of brown people. I hadn’t looked at it that way before, but I guess he’s right. Unless you’re talking about the Japanese. They’re not brown. But I don’t do that kind of stuff anymore. I’ve really evolved a lot.

I want to take a moment to mention my relative, Norm, who lived in Germany in the 30’s and 40’s. There it became the cultural norm to practice genocide on anyone who didn’t fit within the criteria for genetic and societal perfection. The Norm there was also a white male who felt he deserved certain privileges as a result of his superior genetic makeup. He rose to power by playing on peoples’ sense of pride in their culture and also on their fear of differences. Ten million people were exterminated because they did not fit within the ideals of the cultural Norm. My ideals. Well, not mine. I would never do anything as atrocious as that. Thank goodness, we are better than that here.

We rushed to the aid of those in need and showed them that their way was not the right way. We convinced them to change their ways by use of force. This often works for us. We are powerful, strong, and will make you see things from our point of view or else. Of course, we try not to do that very often because we believe in peace. Fighting is no way to solve disputes. Everybody knows that.

I am a Christian white male. I shape the words that are used to describe the words that describe the foundation upon which our country is built. In God we Do trust. You should, too. Because even though we have separation of church and state on paper, it’s very hard to deny the permeation of our society with Christian themes and preferences. Recently, the Veterans Administration started to allow the religious symbol for Wicca to be placed on the headstones at the graves of deceased soldiers. I don’t really understand why that was such a big deal, but as long as it doesn’t affect my religious freedom I suppose it’s okay.

I am a heterosexual, Christian, white male. I am all for freedom and equality for everyone. As long as that freedom doesn’t oppose my own sense of morality. If a person chooses to be gay, then that is okay for them. However, I don’t want to see it. Those people should try to pass as the Norm that we all aspire to be. As long as we all pretend that it isn’t going on, then I can ignore any inequality that might exist. Since, after all, I can only see things from my position of power and privilege as a straight, white, Christian male.

I’m really happy to celebrate the many strides that we have made in the fields of equality and justice for all. We have virtually eliminated discrimination in all it’s forms. Black people are afforded all the same opportunities as us white folk now. I wish that they were better able to understand what to do with all this freedom that they now have. They all seem to be poor unless they are a rapper or an athlete. It seems like they are always shooting each other or doing drugs. You’d think that they would be more appreciative of what they’ve been given.

I am so proud of where we have come to over the life of our Great Nation. It’s so relaxing to be past all of that struggle and strife. Now we, the Norms, are able to settle back into our comfortable lives again. It’s really very nice to be Norm.

“In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.”

— by Martin Niemöller

Hello. My name is Norm. I am just like you.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Man Up Monday: Tough Guise and Intro « to be dancing… a novelty yarn

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