Merriam-Webster defines dystopia as an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives. Since the Hulu adaptation of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, there has been a lot chatter about the eerie similarities of Gilead and the condition of America today. I'm addicted to the show and have been an American for almost 31 years. Based on those two criteria alone, I've realized there are about eight subtle similarities between The Handmaid's Tale and America today:
1. Children are being separated from their families. Children of immigrant families trying to cross the border into America are being separated from their parents and held captive. Instead of trying to immigrate out like June, Luke and Hannah, many immigrants from Mexico are trying to immigrate in. They're being met by ICE, detained and separated. What happens to the children? Will they be placed with "American" families?
2. America's Leadership is using the Bible to justify decisions. Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended Trump's policy of the immigrant family separation by quoting bible verse: "I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order," Sessions said. The men in leadership positions in Gilead are often found quoting the bible to justify governing decisions.
Then, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders used the Bible for the same purpose. "It is very biblical to enforce the law," she said during a heated press conference.
3. U.S. Birth Rates and Fertility Rates are declining. In May of this year, news outlets widely reported that the U.S. Birth Rate is the lowest in 30 years. While a nuclear war with radiation killing men's sperm and women's ovaries is not to blame (as may be the case in Gilead), economic uncertainty, the cost of raising a child, and a myriad of health issues facing fertile women may to be to blame. There are a lot of factors contributing to the decline but the fact is, there is indeed a decline.
4. The Patriarchy is still alive and well. We've made a lot of progress is this arena, but let's face it....there are more men in high power leadership positions than women, men get paid more than women, men are expected to work their whole lives and women get shamed for still wanting to work after they have children. It isn't as blunt in today's America as it is in Gilead, but the narrative is still there.
5. Hating the "different" is also alive and well. In the past few years we've seen a TON of very scary events where hate was the root cause of the fear and hostility. From Charlottesville to Pulse Night Club to the peppering of college student hate crimes, you'd be hard-pressed to find a week where someone who wasn't white, American, straight, or Christian was not a target of a hate crime. The LGBTQ movement has made great progress but LGBTQ citizens still face extreme discrimination. African Americans are the target of senseless police shootings. Muslims are still treated suspiciously.
6. America is violent. In Gilead, the Eyes of God, aka the militia men that protect the commanders and their wives, can murder anyone at the drop of a hat. Look at an Eye the wrong way? They'll kill you. Eyes hang people who are "dissenters." Eyes shoot people at the slightest suspicion of un-Gilead activity. Gilead is a pretty violent place despite the Godly order that prevails. America, is a violent place. Look at the mass shootings! You can't go to a movie theater or walk through a mall or go to school without a thought nestled in the back of your mind that you might get shot today. Many of us don't live in fear, but the thought is certainly there.
7. Make America Great Again. Trump's campaign slogan and promise to the American people mirrors that of Gilead. The leaders of Gilead wanted to make a country pure and Godly. They wanted to be simple and productive citizens who produce children and live in the favor of the Lord. Commander Waterford and his wife, Serena Joy, wanted to "save" Americans by forcing this rigid doctrine as a way of life. Trump wants to "make America great again." He's not bringing God into it and for now, he's not forcing women to produce babies, but he is making HUGE claims and steps to create a vision of America which HE believes is "the right one."
8.Canada Rocks. Those fortunate to flee the ruthless violence of Gilead went straight up to Canada, a country that was welcoming and untouched by the "turning of time" Gilead experienced. No nuclear fallout. No lack of technology. No one has to have their husband sign a note for their birth control. Women can have jobs. When Trump was elected, many people joked about moving to Canada so they wouldn't have to live in Trumps's America. Funny thing is Canada frequently looks like a better option than the US and everyone is friendly there.
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