Normal Is Hell

Joel Pulliam
3 min readSep 26


Illustration by Matt Rota (NYT)

I always believe in transparency, so here it is: for the last few years now, I haven’t been in a good place. Honestly, it’s been a struggle, and I’m not alone. Americans everywhere are barely making it.

This is not a shot at the current administration, but… things suck right now. I’m not talking about MAGA talking points like CRT or any of that junk. It’s a deeper feeling, more than just a simple malaise. It’s the feeling of trying to keep your head above water. It’s surviving instead of thriving, never knowing peace. This is an America that’s even below middle class. They can’t afford a vacation or shopping sprees. They have to find the good in small victories because the big wins are too rare.

A lot of people who make decisions have no idea what it feels like. They don’t know what it feels like to be evicted. They don’t know what it’s like to get less than minimum wage for maximum effort. They don’t know how it is to get something repossessed in the middle of the night. It’s a reality a lot of Americans have had to experience, and I’m not too embarrassed to admit I’ve been there too.

While some people have praised America returning to “normal,” we have to question what normal means. Normal is and has been hell for a lot of people. Normal seems safe on the surface, but it is the buffer used by oppressors to keep others in bondage. Normal is usually defined by those who hoard all the power and resources to maintain their place in a white-centric, capitalistic system and used by those too afraid to confront those institutions.

So while the stock market is good, that doesn’t change the fortune of the single mom working two jobs. It doesn’t help the brother working the graveyard shift just to keep his lights on. Even if unemployment goes down, what does it matter if you can’t afford dinner with your paycheck?

I’m not putting all of this at the feet of the current President. This is an American thing. A four hundred-year thing. Normal has always been the problem, but has been used to uphold and defend this nation’s greatest faults. We all know that Republicans are blocking anything that can help get services to people, but it doesn’t help if the other party doesn’t have the courage to call for scrapping a filibuster that is used to block progress. (I also need the current administration to stop acting like everything is on the up and up because it’s insulting).

I’m writing this because I’m frustrated with the lack of effort to fix inequality, the lack of determination to alleviate both working and non-working poor people. Soon you’ll run into the problem of people not caring if the American system works or fails, not caring if politicians steal or cheat because it wouldn’t matter anyway. Why would they care about an indicted former president if the judicial system has let white people (especially rich ones) get away with what they want? I want this thing to work, but it won’t as long as “normal” is the goal. If we can’t pass a $15 minimum wage or close the racial wealth gap, then how do you expect someone who looks like me to believe in the American experiment?

It seems we are always teetering on the edge, whether it’s government shutdowns or default threats, but there is an growing amount of Americans who have simply given up caring. Now, instead of fearing those at the top falling over the cliff, many Americans are wondering, “When will they join the rest of us down here?”



Joel Pulliam

Millennial, campaign/Voter Protection Unit alum. Passionate about civil rights, politics, music, and comics.