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Worrying or wondering about living with today’s ‘new normal’?

By: Keith Kappes
Columnist
Carter County Times

He’s an old hippie
And he don’t know what to do
Should he hang on to the old
Should he grab on to the new.

He’s an old hippie
This new life is just a bust
He ain’t trying to change nobody
He’s just trying real hard to adjust. 

I’ve always appreciated these lyrics from the chorus of the Bellamy Brothers’ popular country and pop song, “Old Hippie”, in 1985. 

Those words are a reasonable description of how many folks say they feel today about the wave of dramatic changes in public health, politics, racial equity, religious, economic, education, political and other aspects of American life. 

Years ago, scholars coined the phrase “new normal” to identify those changes which initially shock or frighten us but eventually we choose to accept or tolerate. I wrote a speech for my boss on that topic about 15 years ago, but never expected that phrase to survive. 

The question of hanging onto the old or grabbing onto the new looms in front of us as we experience changes like surviving a global pandemic plus historically high unemployment rates, growing homelessness and even hunger. 

Church membership goes steadily downward and religious organizations find it harder to recruit those willing to devote their lives to a faith-based existence. The number of abused and neglected children grows exponentially, fueled by the pandemic of illegal drugs, which also brought us a tidal wave of overdose deaths. 

Deadly violence has become the recourse of too many of those angry with their families, companions, employers, neighbors, schools, or rude motorists. Jobs go unfilled because too few folks in today’s workforce either understand or appreciate work ethic or are unwilling to acquire an employable skill. 

Songwriter David Bellamy may have been 35 years ahead of his time when he advised us in that song that the safest choice is not to try to change anyone but to try real hard to adjust. 

That’s easy to say in a song but it will never address any of the issues raising anxiety levels in our nation and our world. And it will be much harder to achieve in these strange times and in those ahead of us. 

Keith Kappes can be reached at keithkappes@gmail.com

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