Saturday, January 14, 2017


     Each day ticks us closer and closer to Trump's inauguration.  Meanwhile, the Republicans in the House and Senate prepare to repeal the Affordable Care Act with nothing to replace it, and millions of Americans wonder how they will be able to afford their family's healthcare or if their lives will be in jeopardy. Our President-elect continues to use his bully pulpit of Twitter, holds a press-conference filled with staffer shills to applaud him and a table filled with empty folders as "evidence" and tells us he doesn't need to release his tax records because he won.  Maybe these things excite you, but it brings up quite a different response in me.  I believe that my fears for friends, family and country will come to pass. But we should not despair since that's what they want us to do, wallow in misery and indecision. If we are mired, they have the complete upper hand, and it has clearly become us versus them. A recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a leader in health policy analysis and health journalism, found that 75% of Americans either want lawmakers to leave the Affordable Care Act alone or repeal it only when they can replace it with a new health care law.
     We need to take action and certainly, you should march, protest, write/call/email your legislators, make your voices heard in any way shape or form.  Meanwhile, you need to make preparations for yourself, your family, your friends and your neighbors.  You need to figure out pretty quickly what you will stand for and what you will do if called upon.  I'm not being reactionary. I'm being realistic. A year and a half ago, I was told that he'd never get elected with his plethora of lies, faults, lawsuits, moral failings, shady business dealings and bankruptcies, yet we stand on the edge. This man is evil and evil will come, so you need to prepare.
     Do you have food and water stored for an extended emergency, and don't forget your pet's needs? How about the medicines you and your family take? Have you considered your contraception needs? Medical supplies? Back-up power, communication, security? Do you have your family's paperwork in order; passports, licenses, health care proxies or living wills? Before you spend money on that fancy vacation, extra pair of pants you don't need, third cup of $5 coffee, expensive haircut or the next best piece of crap that you don't need - pay down your high interest credit cards or save the money.  Sell things you don't need or use the barter system.  If you are in one of the groups that have been potentially targeted for recrimination, lack of service or rights (i.e. women, the LGBTQIA community, Blacks, Hispanics, the disabled, the poor, journalists, people that live in blue states ... I could go on) you need to quickly assess what your needs would be in an emergency and who you could turn to for assistance. Make friends with like minded neighbors and community members.  If I'm wrong, then you're super prepared for an emergency and in better fiscal shape.  I hope I'm wrong.
     In my last post, I told you about how much reading has always meant to me and that some books have stayed with me.  In college, I was introduced to Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale.  A dystopian novel written in 1985 set in near-future New England where the totalitarian theocracy has overthrown the US government.  I know that Hulu is bringing the television adaptation of the novel to the small screen this year.  My husband asked me if I was going to watch it since the book was so important to me, but there's no way I can do it. I know that every woman I have ever met who has read that book was scared by the very real possibility of it. A small plot summary from wikipedia:

Beginning with a staged attack that kills the President and most of Congress, a movement calling itself the "Sons of Jacob" launches a revolution and suspends the US Constiution under the pretext of restoring order. They are quickly able to take away all of women's rights, largely attributed to financial records being stored electronically and labelled by gender. The new regime, the Republic of Gilead, moves quickly to consolidate its power and reorganize society along a new militarized, hierarchical, compulsory regime of Old Testament inspired social and religious fanaticism among its newly created social classes. In this society, human rights are severely limited and women's rights are unrecognized as almost all women are forbidden to read.

The story is told in the first person by a woman called Offred (literally Of-Fred). The character is one of a class of women kept for reproductive purposes and known as "handmaids" by the ruling class in an era of declining births due to sterility from pollution and sexually transmitted diseases. Offred describes her life during her third assignment as a handmaid, in this case to Fred (referred to as "The Commander"). Interspersed in flashbacks are portions of her life from before and during the beginning of the revolution, when she finds she has lost all autonomy to her husband, through her failed attempt to escape with her husband and daughter to Canada, to her indoctrination into life as a handmaid. Offred describes the structure of Gilead's society, including the several different classes of women and their circumscribed lives in the new theocracy.

Offred is considered a wanton woman when Gilead was established, because she married a man who was divorced. All divorces were nullified by Gilead, meaning her husband was still married to his previous wife and Offred was an adulteress. In trying to escape Gilead, she was separated from her husband and daughter. She is part of the first generation of Gilead's women: those who remember pre-Gilead times. Having proven fertile, she is considered an important commodity and has been placed as a handmaid in the home of the Commander Fred and his wife Serena Joy, to bear a child for them (Serena Joy is said to be infertile).

In Gilead, the bodies of women are politicized and controlled. The North American population is falling as more men and women become infertile (though in Gilead, legally, it is only women who can be the cause of infertility). Gilead's treatment of women is based upon a narrow, fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible, meaning that women are the property of and subordinate to their husband, father, or head of household. They are not allowed to do anything that would grant them any power independent of this system. They are not allowed to vote, hold a job, read, possess money, or own anything, among many other restrictions. In this society, there is no such thing as a sterile man anymore. In this culture, women are either fruitful or infertile, the latter of which is declared to be an "unwoman" and is sent to the colonies with the rest of the "unwomen" to do life-threatening work until their death, which is, on average, three years.

     This book scared me to my core. There's a scene in the book where Offred is remembering a time before the main story when she went to a local store to pick up groceries, swiped her bank card and it wouldn't work.  Within a short time, it was discovered that all women's access to their bank accounts had been turned off and they were completely beholden to their husbands, if they had one, for access to funds. Written in 1985, this is long before we used plastic for everything.  The super scary part of a well written dystopia is that as time progresses you can see how easy it would be for the events to take place.
     Make preparations not to be a handmaiden, but to be a warrior for your rights and needs, and for those of your family and friends. Be the light and be ready.  

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