“It appears that certain periods of history quickly become, both for other societies and for those that follow them, the stuff of not especially edifying legend and the occasion for a good deal of hypocritical self-congratulation.”
I finally understand. I see why The Handmaid’s Tale has claimed a spot again on the best seller list. I sit on my couch and feel like a damn idiot. How have I not read this by now? A degree in English, plenty of graduate work (150+ hours and degrees to show), thousands of books read, 39 years of life gone – but never this one. The older I get and the more I experience and read, the more I realize that I know nothing, I’ve read nothing, and my life has practically been wasted.
I can imagine a Trump-esque regime leading America to the dystopian reality Atwood’s novel portrays. Fortunately, it seems that public sentiment is slowly turning away from the insanity we see daily from the government (bought by foreign powers, abandoned by those who could help) leading our country today.
Who publicly calls one of their leading allies evil?
Who uses world tragedies to attack their detractors?
Who rapes women?
Who physically attacks reporters?
Who shoves world leaders to keep themselves front and center in all things?
Who brags about supporting Everyman, yet refuses to pay their employees and contractors?
Who brashly shares state secrets with people who are virtually enemies?
Who plots to cut funding for the arts, education, and healthcare?
Who destroys you with a smile, claiming everything will soon be better?
The US today is mimicking the Republic of Gilead, where half of the population repeats phrases they know to be false, praising a regime that continually demonstrates disregard for all but the top 2% of the top 1% (economically).
Artists and writers and the press are persecuted in order to stop them from speaking the truth to the masses. Sound familiar?
The rights of women and minorities are oppressed in order to keep homogeneity in power. Sound familiar?
In The Handmaid’s Tale, our protagonist (and her frequently quoted aunt) remember what life was like before tyranny. But then we hear this: “We were a society dying…of too much choice.” Defeat. Aunt Lydia, and many like her, had not only accepted cruelty and deceit and a warped vision of life, but had come to embrace it. Yes, most likely as a coping mechanism for a reality that felt inescapable, but accept and support and preach they did.
This is our America, 2017, filled with adults and leaders who are bowing to what they swore they’d never accept. Evil, oppression, bigotry, isolationism, authoritarianism – these are the reality of what the regime wrenching power from the people represent.
Attack the press – attack the judiciary – attack the legislative branch – attack foreign governments – attack founding documents – attack the rule of law and justice – attack protestors – attack entertainers – attack artists.
All of this has happened, and will continue. This is a bald-faced attempt to change the landscape of American life, values, culture, history. This is a full-on attack on freedom.
You don’t have to be a particular fan of America to see the problem — I’m not. I often wish I weren’t born here and didn’t live here. But this county has always valued freedom and equality — these are being threatened today, under the very noses of those who swear protection, by the ones elected to protect them. That’s not alarmist — read the news, watch the people running things today and listen to them…listen to the words they proudly speak — there’s no question about their aims.
The Handmaid’s Tale offers us a warning. It shows us a vision of what life could look like if we allow our country to get out of control…if we allow regression to continue. A few glimpses of life in Gildead follow; heed this warning from literature.
Quotes for consideration:
“Ordinary, said Aunt Lydia, is what you are used to. This may not seem ordinary to you now, but after a time it will. It will become ordinary.”
“We lived, as usual, by ignoring. Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.”
“We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories.”
“Sanity is a valuable possession; I hoard it the way people once hoarded money. I save it, so I will have enough, when the time comes.”
“Maybe none of this is about control. Maybe it isn’t really about who can own whom, who can do what to whom and get away with it, even as far as death. Maybe it isn’t about who can sit and who has to kneel or stand or lie down, legs spread open. Maybe it’s about who can do what to whom and be forgiven for it. Never tell me it amounts to the same thing.”
“How easy it is to invent a humanity, for anyone at all. What an available temptation.”
“Pen Is Envy, Aunt Lydia would say, quoting another Center motto, warning us away from such objects. And they were right, it is envy. Just holding it is envy. I envy the Commander his pen. It’s one more thing I would like to steal.”
“Better never means better for everyone, he says. It always means worse, for some.” [it seems so…does this always have to be true?]
“But people will do anything rather than admit that their lives have no meaning. No use, that is. No plot.”
“There is something powerful in the whispering of obscenities, about those in power. There’s something delightful about it, something naughty, secretive, forbidden, thrilling. It’s like a spell, of sorts. It deflates them, reduces them to the common denominator where they can be dealt with.”
“Change, we were sure, was for the better always. We were revisionists; what we revised was ourselves.”
“Humanity is so adaptable, my mother would say. Truly amazing, what people can get used to, as long as there are a few compensations.”
“I don’t want to be a doll hung up on the Wall, I don’t want to be a wingless angel. I want to keep on living, in any form. I resign my body freely, to the uses of others. They can do what they like with me. I am abject. I feel, for the first time, their true power.”