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Dystopia

Orwell was just a little too early.

L and I started watching The Man in the High Castle last winter. Perhaps it says something about my emotional state that I was not ready to try this series, until after our 2018 election revealed a possible light at the end of the Trump tunnel.

We were five or six episodes into the series before I decided I really loved it. When we got through all the available shows, I started to miss it. If you are not familiar with it, the series begins with the premise that the Axis powers won the WWII and the United states had divided into Nazi and Japanese territory. It’s not a huge surprise that I’d be drawn to this. It’s got two elements that I seem to come back to in a story, regardless of what else I read; WWII and dystopia.

Before Trump was elected in 2016, back when I still believed that I knew how the political game would play out, before I started to clearly see how much mud and filth was brought to bear on the electoral playing field, I used to imagine what life and politics would be like in the event of a Trump victory. It was a experimental dystopia, though some of it was pretty clear from long-standing Republican policy priorities. In reality, the destruction of “normal” has been so much worse, and so much faster than I imagined. 

At this writing, in addition to the “Wag the Dog” moves the Trump regime appears to be undertaking aimed at Iran, another immigrant child has died in US custody, and even more tent cities are being ordered to house more children; several states have passed strict anti-abortion legislation intended to eventually make it to the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. Republicans who expressed reservations about Trump’s assertion that women who sought abortions should be punished, have tossed aside all such pretense now. The Georgia law leaves open the possibility that women who experience miscarriages could be investigated and potentially charged with murder, though experts differ on whether the law will really be used in this way. The same law demands the prosecution of women who travel out of state for abortion services and anyone who helps them, presumably with money or transport. Women in Georgia, it seems, are the property of the State. 

In addition to its own “heartbeat bill” Republicans in Ohio are seeking to ban private insurers from covering any abortion care including birth control pills and IUDs. The bill’s own sponsor is murky on the specifics of birth control methods and also believes that ectopic pregnancies can be replanted in the uterus. It really doesn’t matter. The point was never to get the science right, the point is to punish and trap women who have sex – whether they wanted that sex or not

We know you’re lying. Your lips are moving.

This is not even addressing the culture of constant lying that this regime perpetrates. It’s unreal. They will lie about big things, things that are easily fact checked, things that don’t matter. Even for those of us who are fairly well grounded in reality, facts, and research, it’s unsettling. And that too, is the point. If you are too confused to keep up, eventually, they figure, you’ll give up. It’s gotten to the point that, even if we had regime change tomorrow, it’s hard to know what kind of country we will have left.

Read that last sentence again. Now, I will tell you honestly that I hesitated several times before committing that sentence to print. Because in dystopias and authoritarian regimes, they go after critics eventually. Censorship and surveillance are part of the landscape. They are the lifeblood of governing by fear.

Every so often, it starts to look like we are coming to the end of this nightmare. Or at least the beginning of the end. Or the end of the beginning (Churchill in WWII). the next day there is some hold up or blockade that the Trump regime puts up to drag this out as long as possible. He’s currently floating the idea that he might serve more than two terms. It’s supposedly a joke, but what he’s doing is normalizing the idea for his followers with the hope that they will expect and demand it. It’s exhausting and bad for the country’s health.

Of course the point of most dystopian novels is the characters who find it within themselves to fight back, to disrupt the power grab. This was also the work of the Resistance/Maquis/Partisans in WWII.

If you’ve ever wondered what you would have done in 1930s Germany; you’re doing it now. Health problems and the miasma of teenage uberdrama have kept me on the sidelines, but I am increasingly less satisfied there. Rebellion is in my nature. I’ve been trying to find my voice for the past year, and have bounced back and forth between keeping a watchful eye and guarding my mental and emotional health. This has bothered me since January, 2017 when I was too sick to go to the Women’s March in Boston. I was with them all in spirit, but it wasn’t the same.

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