Caveat: I'm not certain I like this book. It portrays the nation that once was America after a hostile takeover by a frighteningly conservative (but not religious) government. The birth rate has dropped so dramatically due to chemicals and stuff that now, intercourse is highly regulated by the government in the hopes of producing more children. This is definately not a book for young eyes, but I read it as a senior with guidance. I continue to read it not because I necessarily enjoy the plot. I read it because it makes me think.
[Caveat #2: The book has nothing to do with the movie that came out in '90. Don't watch it. It's horrid]
One of the primary themes in the book is the idea of freedom. Atwood crafts a world where freedom is celebrated -- but it isn't the freedom we're used to. In this new nation (called Gilead), citizens are gaurenteed the freedom FROM. (In contrast, Americans desire freedom TO) These two concepts exist on a metaphorical seesaw: If I want a freedom FROM, I have to give up a freedom TO. One of the examples in the book has to do with clothing choice. The women of Gilead are granted the freedom FROM ogling, sexual looks by giving up the freedom TO dress how they want. All the women wear blouses and long skirts. The Handmaids (one social class in the novel) even wear those big white nuns wimples from ages ago that have the wings on them so they have the freedom FROM awkward social interactions. They have the freedom FROM advertising and filth frequently in magazines... but they've given up their freedom TO read.
What an interesting concept. It really does make me look at this nation that we live in today. We focus on our freedoms TO do certain things: dress as we want, act as we want, worship as we want, live how we want. To keep everything in balance, we've given up one important thing: Our freedom FROM instructing others how to live their lives.
I may step on some toes here, and if I do, I apologize in advance. I've put a lot of thought into this over the past several years. I'd love to hear your thoughts, but please truly think them out and comment respectfully (not that I'd ever have to remind you lovely ladies of that!).
Here I go: If we want to maintain our freedoms to live, worship, and educate the way that we desire, we have to defend other's rights to do so as well, up to the point that it crosses Biblical lines. Take gun control. I may not like guns, and I may not want one in my own home, but I'm not going to tell you that you can't. There was an issue on my college campus attempting to get a particular club that supported a subculture kicked off campus. I stood up with the members of my religious organization to protect that club's right to be there even though I disagree with their message. We can't reach out to people we've chased away, and, on a deeper note... our group could have been the next to go. After all, a lot of time authentic Christianity spreads a message that is at least as controversial.
We don't have the right to litigate lifestyle. The government has their hands in so many social aspects far beyond the original "We the people" : to form a union of states, establish justice, ensure domestic safety, provide for the common defense, support general welfare (I believe the Founders meant this in a MUCH more compact manner than currently applies), and ensure the blessings of LIBERTY for following generations. I have no right to tell anyone that they must go to church, and they have no right to tell me I can't. I can't stop anyone from marching with PETA anymore than they can stop marchers with Right to Life. That's what liberty means.
In a world that treasures freedoms TO, groups promoting freedom FROM are going to have a struggle. Up to this point in my life and the entire foreseeable future, I have avoided this type of group. It isn't effective. I would much rather meet with someone of a different philosophy than my own and truly listen to what they have to say... then earn the right to peacefully and politely share my own thoughts. A back-and-forth, give-and-take, respect-based conversation rather than an argument of catchphrases thrown back and forth. It's a skill I have yet to perfect, but by the grace of God, in time, it's a skill I hope to grown in further.
I have so many other thoughts about this, but they're a horrid jumble right now. Perhaps some day... but in the mean time I leave you with one tidbit of food for thought:
"In the days of evil and anarchy you had freedom to, now you are granted freedom from. Don't underrate it." (Aunt Lydia, in the Handmaid's Retraining Center)