Pope Sixtus Seeks Normality

What’s this Pope Sixtus hears about a new normal? Nothing much in the 21st century is normal to a kid who grew up in 15th century Italy.

He understands in the post-Renaissance era that things must change. This is saying a lot for a guy who was not only Pope but also a mean, unforgiving, maybe somewhat corrupt asshole.

Was it normal to name a few nephews Cardinals at a tender age? Maybe he created his own version of the New Normal – for about fifty years. Well, the term ‘nepotism’ has stuck. It’s normal, psychologically speaking, to push a few of one’s own kin closer to succeed.

In Sixtus’ day, women couldn’t do much in the world. It was abnormal to have them educated or to run a business. Although the latter was not a closed possibility, especially among the cities on the Baltic Sea. But not enough exceptions to create a new normal.

Sardine on Vacation: Don’t you think, your highness or popeness or whatever you want to be called, that the very notion of normal, let alone new normal, is a cliché or, at best, an unworkable concept?

Sixtus: I was about to start the tedious task of defining what is normal.

Sardine: My recent column talks about the Aztecs and human sacrifice. There’s their normal.

Sixtus: And our abnormal.

Sardine: Unless you look beneath the surface of societies. In the mid-1800s thousands of babies in London accidentally on purpose ended up drowned in the Thames. In the 16th and 17th centuries, hundreds of thousands of women were burned as witches.

Sixtus: Witchcraft was a threat to the order of society.

Sardine: Except that there’s no such thing as ‘witchcraft’ as defined and pursued by the church and secular authorities.

Sixtus: That was all slightly after my time.

Sardine: Yes. You just had the Jews burned at the stake during the Inquisition.

Sixtus: That’s something the Spaniards and their beloved monarchical pair, Ferdinand and Isabella, have to answer for.

Sardine: I’m not accusing you of anything. I wanted to illustrate how the normal provides a fair basis to judge actions, like what kind of clothes should be worn or how we should eat, but the normal can be equally oppressive and monstrous.

Sixtus: I guess the new normal means that political parties in your country should have fifteen to twenty candidates trying to secure a nomination for President of the United States.

Sardine: I can’t defend and am loathe to comment on politics. I am a member of the League of Non-Voters. Sometimes the members of the League might discuss who they would or would not vote for, but not recently.

Sixtus: As an outsider, I can’t imagine how American society allows such a. . .farce.

Sardine: We can’t stop someone running.

Sixtus: A guy who made billions selling pizzas?

Sardine: That was in 2012.

Sixtus: How about a guy who’s a heart surgeon? Or a woman who was a CEO? Or a narcissist who touts himself the master of deal making? And two of those three are more popular than some of the governors and congressmen running. The Public IS showing some support for them.

Sardine: A very very small sliver of the public. Trust me.

Sixtus: The problem is that your society tacitly supports the kind of people running. The candidates mirror the public. But that’s not the least of my befuddlement.

Sardine: Didn’t your 15th century society mirror the choice of Pope?

Sixtus: Absolutely. And in most cases we were up for the challenge. We wanted to rule. Some committed grievous acts to become Pope.

Sardine: Alexander VI isn’t here to defend himself.

Sixtus: He had his two cable shows. In any case, what really irks a denizen of political combat is that the majority of the candidates running KNOW they have no chance to win. One, maybe two, could make a decent run. But the rest are doing it for what? Great ideas? That’s laughable. The opportunity to run an empire? You wish.

Sardine: The deal-maker says he’ll create tons of jobs.

Sixtus: When anyone says they create or can create jobs, you can be sure those jobs have substandard wages. It’s all numbers, statistics, calculations. Do you think he cares about the working stiff?

Sardine: Do you?

Sixtus: Not really. I’m not trying to convince anyone I do.

Sardine: No one believes he does. But we’ve diverted from the point.

Sixtus: What point?

Sardine: The new normal.

Sixtus: Anyone running for president. That’s new.

Sardine: A triumph for democracy.

Sixtus: It makes one wish for inherited rulers.

Sardine: That’s partly working in the campaign, also.

Sixtus: Is it an accident he has the best chance to win?