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The Handmaid's Tale, Trump and Humanae Vitae



Handmaid's Tale?
Natalia via Flickr, licensed cc. 

When Mr. Pete and I were in North Carolina visiting our son, I got hooked on Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale. Calvin and Sarah had a Hulu subscription and I did not, so I tried to pack in as many episodes as possible during our long stay there. As I Googled the show to find out more about it, I kept getting links to reviews about what a coincidence it was that this show should exist now that Trump was president and the "current state of the country."


That hadn't even occurred to me (mainly because it's not true) as I watched the first season. 

If you don't know, The Handmaid's Tale is an original series available on Hulu TV. It's based on the 1985 book of the same name by Margaret Atwood. This dystopian fantasy is set in the near future after a coup d'etat and overthrow of the United States government that included a massacre of the Congress and an attack on the White House. The victorious traitors are made up of religious zealots who have forcibly inflicted their twisted religious beliefs on all of the citizens of the new state of Gilead - particularly the ones that had the misfortune of not making it out of the country in time. Women are color-coded according to their fertility and rank in the new system. Enemies of the state including apostates, gays, and clergy are executed with regularity. Because of an alarming drop in worldwide fertility rates, fertile women are handmaids to upper-class ruling women. They are expected to conceive, birth, and then give up children to the couples they serve and then move on to the next upper-class family. 

What puzzled me were the writers who kept talking about the Handmaid's Tale as if that is the next step in the Trump Administration's plan for America. See a sample here and here and this Youtube clip. 

What really amuses me is that the authors of this stuff seem to completely ignore those obvious ways that Gilead is more like what other socialist regimes have done, and what progressives have pushed through in this country. For example:

  • In season 1 episode 2, the powers that be in Gilead are taking down and demolishing Catholic Churches. Reference is made to St. Patrick's in New York City suffering such a fate. The only religion allowed in Gilead is the strange state religion. One candidate in the 2016 campaign said that "deep-seated culture codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed." But that candidate was NOT Donald Trump. 
  • In season 2 episode 6, Serena Joy, one of the architects of Gilead and the rule of women in it, tells the mostly white college students that they are privileged. Who uses that type of rhetoric the most? Yep, the left. See here and here 
  • Women are such second-class citizens in Gilead that they are not allowed to read or write or hold any power. In the current administration, women hold many key roles, and several are even being considered for the new spot on the supreme court. 
  • The big news a few weeks ago was the comparison between children being removed from parents in Gilead and at the border. The huge difference is that parents and children are separated permanently in Gilead for trying to leave the country. Children are reunited with their children and children are given care and education in America. 
  • Some on the left were comparing forced reproduction in Gilead to the present-day United States. Huff Po Senior Reporter Laura Bassett says that having employers decide not to cover contraception on their health insurance plan is going to lead to "forced breeding  and mutilation."  She never mentions that in the United States contraception is available and if you want it, you can pay for it. She also never mentions the gazillion other things that are no longer covered or the high deductibles that make seeking medical care out of the reach of middle-class Americans thanks to the Affordable Care Act - the legacy of the previous administration. Her premise is ridiculous. 

What is interesting to me is that the Handmaid's Tale shows how distorted sex can become when its natures of pleasure and procreation are deliberately separated from each other. When that act is further taken outside of the realm of marriage, (surrogate, test tube, handmaid) it further distorts the act and the result. 

Pope Paul VI said as much in his prophetic encyclical Humanae Vitae which turns 50 this year. 

Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.

In Gilead, the handmaids are just there to fulfill the desire for a child. She is a body, a vessel, and has no rights to her baby after it is born. 

Gilead is a fine illustration of everything the pontiff wrote in the next paragraph.

Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone. It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife.

The Handmaid's Tale is cautionary. But if we look at our fellow citizens (who voted for Trump) or at the current administration with distrust as leading us into Gilead, we could miss the ideas, and values that could truly send us there. 



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