The New Normal

They say "truth is stranger than fiction" and we certainly have some incredible examples as of late, so much so that it makes you wonder if recent headlines weren't actually some bad-on-purpose movie where things like sharknados are actually real.

The kinds of civil liberties violations, peak misogyny, the mainstreaming of rape culture, and abuses of corporate power that are common place today would have seemed unthinkable by society -- and most certainly unspeakable -- just twenty years ago.

In New York, for example, Michele Catalano had been searching online for pressure cookers to cook quinoa while her husband had been browsing for a new backpack. Suddenly, the police were on their doorstep interrogating them about pressure cooker bombs. Don't worry, though; the NSA is only tracking metadata (not content) on people outside of the U.S.

And, speaking of Big Brother... it's bad enough that politicians from North Carolina to Ohio have been dragging women's reproductive freedom to the kind of low places usually reserved for country songs, but did the Texas statehouse security really have to confiscate tampons, too? That just puts the hashtag in #awkward.

In related news, Yale University just announced their new policy for addressing the issue of "nonconsensual sex" (often called "rape" by us laypeople). Rapists will be given "written reprimands" while victims will continue attending classes alongside them. Over in Steubenville, the hacker who exposed the Steubenville rape case could very well spend more time in jail for exposing the crime than the rapists will for committing it. But fear not, CNN was quick to express their deep concern for how "incredibly emotional, incredibly difficult" the whole court experience was... for the rapists. Women everywhere must feel exponentially safer.

Finally, we already knew that the oil and gas industry doesn't want people to know just how problematic fracking can be, but who knew they would be able to bar two small Pennsylvania kids from talking about the subject... for the rest of their lives?! In this new world we live in, Range Resources Ltd was able to procure a court-ordered gag order on the Hallowich family -- including their children - in exchange for a settlement for destroying the family's 10-acre farm. That's like settling with your credit card company for the debt you owe and then barring them from reporting it to the credit agencies. (I want that deal.)

This is precisely the odd mix of headlines that may explain why Chris Carter is hesitant to film a third installment of The X-Files. By the time it hits the theaters, Glenn Greenwald will have spoiled the ending.

We all can be reasonably confident that we'll never have to arm ourselves with a chainsaw to cut our way through a flying shark. What we don't know is whether we'll have to give up our First Amendment rights just so we can get justice when some corporation does us harm. We can't tell our daughters that if they are raped, they won't be asked, "What were you wearing?" Or, worse -- to go to class with their rapist. This new normal has gotten out of control -- and we all know it.

It's precisely why Wendy Davis' filibuster caught such fire. It's why thousands have been continuously protesting in North Carolina as part of the Moral Mondays campaign. And it's why Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden have gotten such attention.

Let's just hope the arc of history indeed bends towards justice, and that this movie ends with a happy ending.

Diane Russell is a Maine lawmaker who serves on the House Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee. The Nation named her "Most Valuable State Representative" in its 2011 Progressive Honor Roll. She resides in Portland, Maine.