Friday, March 18, 2005

The Blogger's Tale

From Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale (1985)

On the way home, they stop at an old Puritan church. The government "[has not] fiddled with the gravestones, or the church either. It's only the more recent history that offends them." Chapter 6, pg. 31 Ofglen bows her head in prayer, and Offred assumes her piety is a show. They then head to the Wall, which is the face of Gilead's prison. Six male corpses are hanging by their necks on the Wall from a Men's Salvaging earlier that morning. The men are identified as former abortionists by signs hung around their necks bearing images of fetuses. The men's heads are covered in white bags. One has a bloodstain like a mouth. Ofglen trembles, but Offred is not tempted to inquire or even look at her. "Ordinary, said Aunt Lydia, is what you are used to. This may not seem ordinary to you now, but after a time it will. It will become ordinary." Chapter 6, pg.33

One morning, Offred attends a district Women's Salvaging, execution. All the Handmaids kneel on red cushions in front of a stage set up inside the former university. Offred thinks of making love until she sees the women to be salvaged, two Handmaids and one Wife, sitting on the stage. Two Aunts and the executioners take the stage. Offred recognizes Aunt Lydia and realizes she hates her. She ignores Aunt Lydia's speech. Aunt Lydia announces that a description of the crimes of the prisoners will be dispensed with because similar accounts during televised executions have been followed by an increase in similar crimes. "The crimes of others are a secret language among us. Through them we show ourselves what we might be capable of, after all. This is not a popular announcement." Chapter 42, pg. 275 The first woman is brought up to the noose. A Handmaid behind Offred begins vomiting. Offred has seen this before, has symbolically consented to the executions before. She does not want to see anymore.

When the Salvaging is concluded, Aunt Lydia asks all the Handmaids to form a circle for a Particicution. Two Guardians drag a beaten man into the center of the circle. Offred thinks he looks drunk. Aunt Lydia announces his crime as rape involving the murder of an unborn child. This announcement inspires hatred in all the Handmaids. Aunt Lydia blows a whistle and before the man can protest the crowd of Handmaids is upon him. Ofglen makes her way to the front and knocks out the fallen man with a few well-placed kicks to his head. Offred is shocked and revolted by this at first, but Ofglen quickly explains that the man was not a rapist at all. He was a member of her network and was being killed for political crimes. She was simply making his death less painful for him. Janine walks by with an absent smile on her face and a clump of the man's hair in her fist. Offred is notices that she is ravenously hungry. She thinks it is her body's self-affirming reaction to death.

exerpted from


From prominent wingnut blogger, and UCLA Constitional Law professor, Eugene Volokh, proudly identifying with the government of Iran's preferred method of capital punishment:

I particularly like the involvement of the victims' relatives in the killing of the monster; I think that if he'd killed one of my relatives, I would have wanted to play a role in killing him. Also, though for many instances I would prefer less painful forms of execution, I am especially pleased that the killing — and, yes, I am happy to call it a killing, a perfectly proper term for a perfectly proper act — was a slow throttling, and was preceded by a flogging. The one thing that troubles me (besides the fact that the murderer could only be killed once) is that the accomplice was sentenced to only 15 years in prison, but perhaps there's a good explanation.

I am being perfectly serious, by the way. I like civilization, but some forms of savagery deserve to be met not just with cold, bloodless justice but with the deliberate infliction of pain, with cruel vengeance rather than with supposed humaneness or squeamishness. I think it slights the burning injustice of the murders, and the pain of the families, to react in any other way.

Don't worry. It Can't Happen Here.

No comments: