Stranger than (science) fiction
I read The Handmaid’s Tale a long long time ago, and only a few images from the book have stuck with me. The main one, of course, was the sex (known as rape) forced upon the entrapped handmaidens, mandated by religion and executed by tyrannical and hypocritical elites. I was young and pretty innocent when I read the book and remember my mid-1980s takeaway: thank god this is fiction — or sci-fi, to be precise. We were living in times so far removed from the possibility of such oppression of women, at least in North America, that the story was like a glimpse of life on a faraway malevolent and primitive planet.
So you can imagine my thoughts during the recent US presidential campaign show, where the issue of abortion in general and specifically in cases of rape and incest, became a key point of discussion in the Republicans’ platform. What?? Is this really happening? What year is it? What country are they living in? Why are they — these men — talking about this? Then the election happened, Obama won, the other side retreated and things seemed to settle back into a more recognizable discourse about fiscal cliffs and who was to blame for Benghazi.
Then today, I learned that not everyone in the US is satisfied with going back to sleep on these issues. In New Mexico, a Republican Congresswoman named Cathrynn Brown recently introduced a bill that would prosecute women who had abortions post-rape. When that bill was met with huge criticism, she apparently pulled it. But – she’s back! She’s amended the bill to avoid the poor optics of jailing rape survivors; instead, she’s now proposing the prosecution of the state providers of such abortions (doctors and other conspirators, I presume) for ‘facilitating’ the destruction of evidence. Oh, and I just checked her official site – her proposed legislation is generous and applies to pregnant victims of incest, too.
Cathrynn’s homepage features a recent comment she posted a propos of nothing, really, which reads: “Been thinking . . . Government might be part of the equation, but it is hardly ever the solution.”: Uhm – what??
It’s all so fuzzy and crazy and surreal. How have we traced this circle to the past? Oh I know, there are many many presents, I know. It’s just a bit of a shock to encounter this one at this time. And I had never planned to reread that book.