It’s in times like these – when I find myself kneeling in protest once Eric Idle begins singing “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life” near the finale of “Life Of Brian” – that I'm comforted by the sage wisdom of Frank Burns:
“Individuality is fine,” quoth the ferret face, “as long as we all do it together.”
Division has multiplied exponentially across our culture, adding 366 degrees of separation. In need of divining the root of the problem, we find ourselves minus a few hours of sleep inching toward a calculated solution.When you're chewing on life's gristle — don't grumble ... give a whistle ... and declare. "It’s just the new normal.” This past week, for instance, an Oregon Shakespeare Festival official said that outdoor plays dogged by the influx of seasonal wildfire smoke might lead to building a cover for the Elizabethan Theatre. Why? Because of the possibility of yearly wildfires being “part of a new normal.” We adapt to snafued fubars, repeatedly, by rebooting our servers and declaring our resultant circumstances to be an evolved sense of normalcy. The phrase "the new normal" itself — after an exhaustive three-minutes perusing a cyberspace search engine — seems to have come into the lexicon in the aftermath of World War I … "the war to end all wars," to employ another truism that requires continual updating. This rush toward nascent stability, however, runs counter to the pleading of bumper stickers that for years have implored the drivers stuck behind them to change their view on life. “Why be normal?” they ask. And if they really want to sledgehammer the point home, the bumper stickers are affixed upside-down. I hate those people. (Okay, maybe that's too harsh … especially in these times when hot-take anger has become the new nor- …. arrrgghh. … On the other hand …) Is there anything — anything — less unconventional than taking a bumper sticker touting your self-proclaimed unique nature and STICKING IT UPSIDE DOWN on the back the same model car driven by millions of others? Now that I think about it … yes, yes there is — the desire to get sucked into a marketing ploy to Keep (Fill In The Blank) Weird. Keep Portland Weird. Keep Austin Weird. Keep Santa Cruz Weird. (Well, they have a point there.) Keep Asheville, Indianapolis, Albany (New York, not Oregon), Pittsburgh, Tempe, Missoula, and all of Vermont Weird. How universal is this rush to proclaim your community's weirdness? Well, you can buy T-shirts, buttons, key chain fobs, coffee mugs and likely countless other unnecessary plastic objects that generically read “Keep Your Own City Weird.” Portland and Austin even have battled over the bragging rights as to which gentrified, faded-hipster-vibe community was the first to be weird. By three years, it was Austin (some 100 miles south of where they want to Keep Waco Wacko), but our weirdos to the north shouldn’t feel too bad — at least they had the "-andia" suffix first. “Portlandia,” the television show, was a breath of fresh air when it first aired, poking holes in the peccadilloes of Portland’s non-normalcy. Four years later, the moniker was co-opted by some in — where else? — Ashland (excuse me, Ashlandia) — because if there’s anywhere in Oregon that should stake claim to having the best case for its individuality being lovingly tweaked, it’s a town filled with matching Foresters and can’t make a decision without the threat of matching lawsuits. Meanwhile, in Medford … I see there are folks who think it might be helpful — economically, if not culturally — if a way could be found to make Medford’s downtown “cool.” Why, why on God’s gray concrete would you want to do that? Hasn’t Medford suffered enough? However Medford's downtown evolves, striving for the new normal of communities who follow cookie-cutter blueprints of those who have attained weirdness won't get you any Fonzie cool points. Seriously, the new normal isn’t all that new ... and it’s not all that normal. It is weird, though. — Copy editor Robert Galvin previously wrote "The Little White Dot" and "Rogue Viewpoint" columns for the Mail Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.