I had to eat two pints of ice cream and several chocolate bars to get though this book. That means I needed to flood my brain with serotonin to cope with the portrait of inequality Margaret Atwood created in The Handmaid’s Tale.
This is what happened for me this week:
1.) I watched Kakenya Ntaiya: A girl who demanded school on ted.com.
2.) Gay marriage + Prop 8 + Supreme Court flooded my Facebook.
3.) I remembered my father’s stories, an echo from the past, of race riots at Kennedy High School. Martin Luther King was shot at age 39.
4.) I looked up when women earned the right to vote: Amendment 19, ratified in August 1920.
5.) I saw a pile of baby shoes at an Antique store. It reminded me of Auschwitz.
6.) I thought that if this book were from the point of view of Moira I would physically throw up.
7.) I went swimming. I went to yoga. I read the covers of glossy magazines in the checkout line at the grocery store (Go For It). I watched TV. I existed.
I lie in bed, still trembling. You can wet the rim of a glass and run your finger around the rim and it will make a sound. This is what I feel like: this sound of glass. I feel like the word shatter.
This is how I feel when I read my banal list of the week’s events. Like shatter because even though we know about the mistakes of the past, somehow, we keep falling back into them.
What does any of that have to do with The Handmaid’s Tale?
Sometimes I read books to better understand the world in which I live. Sometimes I read books to escape the world in which I live. I have an unbelievable amount of privilege being white, middle class, educated, and American. Day to day, I tend to forget this. That is dangerous. I think it’s as dangerous as being close-minded. Power can easily be transferred. A single generation of people who don’t remember those who fought for their privilege and freedoms will lead to an oppressed generation.
How is a handmaid anything like a gay couple wanting the right to marry? Someday both will be fiction, because on that day America will understand that defining a person by their sexuality (or limiting their rights) is as ridiculous as defining them by their gender or race. On that day everyone will be allowed the right to marry.