Margaret Atwood warned us all.
His fiction imagines societies ravaged by misogyny, oppression and environmental devastation. His visions now seem too real.
The Canadian writer, whose work has been published in over 45 countries, is the author of more than 50 books of fiction, poetry, critical essays and graphic novels.
“The Handmaid’s Tale,” his dystopian prophecy of the near future, portrays the United States as a fundamentalist theocracy. The few women whose fertility has not been compromised by environmental pollution are forced to procreate. The best-selling novel of 1985 is now an Emmy-winning series on Hulu. His most recent book is “Burning Questions: Essays and Occasional Pieces”.
Atwood is among a slate of writers slated for the inaugural Santa Fe Literary Festival May 20-23 at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center. Renowned names include Colson Whitehead, George RR Martin, John Grisham, Joy Harjo, Lawrence Wright and Valeria Luiselli. Programming includes lectures and conversations, lunches with celebrity chefs and cookbook authors, and walking tours with renowned authors.
Atwood will take the stage at 9:15 a.m. on Saturday, May 21.
Considering the devastating fires in New Mexico, recent events with the Supreme Court and abortion rights, the 2016 election, and the recent police shootings of black citizens, “The Handmaid’s Tale” could be considered a prophecy.
“Not true yet, but it’s closer than 1985,” Atwood wrote in an email from his Toronto home. “Much closer. On January 6, 2021, the United States came closest to an insider-backed coup.
“‘Authoritarian rule’ is the rule of one person,” she continued. “The United States was explicitly created to prevent this, as I understand it – no kings, no mafia bosses running the country, division of powers, separation of the judiciary (judges and courts) from the executive and legislative branches . Power-sharing, checks and balances, no taxation without representation – all to avoid tyranny.
“‘Totalitarianism’ is a step further – total control by a dictatorship of all aspects of life,” she added. “You see Russia getting closer to that right now. Thus, the closer the United States comes to the dismantling of its founding principles, the closer it will come to a tyranny.
Atwood staged “The Handmaid’s Tale” after an American Civil War when a religious group overthrew the government. They renamed the land Gilead.
“Gilead is a totalitarian race under the guise of Christianity,” she wrote. “I keep mumbling, ‘True Christians, please stand up’, because a lot of what is presented as ‘Christianity’ has nothing to do with what Jesus of Nazareth seems to actually have. teaches. Love of God and love of neighbor are supposed to be central, but in Gilead – and in much so-called modern Christianity – they simply aren’t.
“Am I worried? ” she asked. “Sure. The democratic United States hasn’t always done well, but it’s better than the alternatives. … Americans have to ask themselves if they really want to live in a democracy. If they don’t, let’s listen to it.
“Legislators should be asked to re-swear their oath of office,” Atwood added. “If they no longer believe in the system that elected them and are ready to be loyal to it, they must refuse. Yes or no? Let’s be clear.
Dictatorships appeal to our childish desire for a supernatural figure who will fix everything, Atwood said. But “only I can fix it” is a recipe for tyranny.
“These people don’t actually exist, but their promise appeals to the scared child in all of us,” Atwood wrote. “They then say they will run the trains on time (Mussolini) or the equivalent.
“For would-be dictators, it’s obvious: defraud people, promise what you can’t deliver, kill people you’ve blamed for stuff, control businesses for your own gain, get away with the spoils; and if you are truly delusional or misguided, start a war that will eventually ruin your country.
The Jan. 6 trauma left deep scars, Atwood said.
“It’s going to escalate for a while, I think. The irony is that the character of the January 6 single “Only I Can Fix It” turned out to be Mike Pence. Despite his efforts, he could not force himself to act against the Constitution. Without him, you would be in a dictatorship right now, or else some sort of military tutelage, because I tend to think the military wouldn’t have followed King Trump. Of course, if Trump gets the chance, he will replenish the military. That’s what dictators do.