Like many of you, perhaps, I have been literally appalled at the GOP for decades. And every time I reach a kind of equilibrium, they appall me worse and I have to readjust.
But this business of repealing the 19th Amendment? That’s on a whole new dark and disturbing level. I can barely find the words to express my new level of appalledness, but fortunately someone else did: Margaret Atwood. From one of the most chilling sections of her chilling book, The Handmaid’s Tale:
It was after the catastrophe, when they shot the president and machine-gunned the Congress and the army declared a state of emergency. They blamed it on the Islamic fanatics at the time.
Keep calm, they said on television. Everything is under control.
I was stunned. Everyone was, I know that. It was hard to believe. The entire government, gone like that. How did they get in, how did it happen?
That was when they suspended the Constitution.
She then goes on to describe in chilling (that word again!) detail the rapid, systematic disempowerment of women: barred from working outside the home, barred from owning property, etc.–all the way to becoming property themselves.
The scary thing is how plausible it all sounds.
A couple of years ago, Atwood visited West Point:
After her opening remarks, the questions posed by the cadets — who identified themselves by name and rank before asking — referred to everything from Islamism to Descartes, whom Atwood paraphrases at one point in “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Yes, if she were writing the novel now she might have borrowed some of the oppressive tactics of Muslim fundamentalists, but, 30 years on, contemporary American politics — such as conservatives’ references to “real rape” in the run-up to the 2014 elections and the bizarre belief held by Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., that a woman’s body reflexively disables conception in the event of “legitimate rape” — still offers ample inspiration. When those stories broke, she said, the hashtag “#handmaidstale” began to appear all over social media. The book has been filmed, made into an opera and is currently being adapted as a graphic novel.
Surprisingly, none of the questions referred to the ostensibly Christian nature of the Gilead regime. In 2012, a cadet named Blake Page resigned from West Point, complaining that the excessive religiosity of the culture at the academy “willfully disregards the Constitution of the United States of America” and fosters “open disrespect of non-religious new cadets.” (Among the practices Page objected to were mandatory events that routinely included prayers.)
Perhaps most striking, given Mercer’s hopes for a new vocabulary, was that all of the questioners were male, and none of them asked about the status of women in Gilead.
A certain apocryphal “Chinese curse” comes to mind.
BUT, being an optimistic sort, I’ll also point out that The World Values Survey has for years been documenting a global shift away from “survival” (authoritarian / sexist / xenophobic / etc.) values to “self-expression” (equality / tolerance / etc.) ones. I was taught that privilege fights hardest at the end, and so there’s plenty of reason for hope, especially given digital technology’s wondrous capacity to decentralize information and power.
Not that the Far Right is going to disappear, but they’ll just get more and more marginalized.
You can call me a gullible fool–and I’m sure someone will!–but in the words of the immortal Joel, I have been a fool for lesser things. Also, I like the company I’m keeping, out here in the ranks of the foolish optimists.
The Handmaid’s Tale was published in 1985! Talk about a Lady Oracle!
Hulu’s doing a movie!
Ms. Atwood is a long-time animal rights proponent.