This isn't one of my Cases. In my "Evangelizing Advice From an Atheist", one of my early tips was on useful definitions*. The argument was for using definitions to expand communication options, rather than eliminate them. One of the most obvious examples I used was the matter of eliminating the moral embarassments from the category of "True Christians" or "Real Christians". I want to make the case, for both Christians and the rest of the world, to not allow that.

Ostensibly, I get it. For a common view of Jesus Christ, certain actions just don't follow from his teachings. So, for Christians, this seems an obvious reason why people who act against those teachings don't count. And, even for non-Christians, it seems like it might be a means of shaming self-identifying Christians into not being hateful pricks.

In that latter case, it never works. I'm sure it's also an attempt to be nice to your Christian friends who don't go in for that hateful prickery, but that's not worth it.
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Okay, yesterday I gave a thought that was quick (not that quick, I mean, it was put into words by me) thought in support of this past Saturday's protests, both in the specific and in the general purposes thereof of what we were supporting and what we were opposing. I do have one mixed feeling on the topic and, boy, is it mixed.
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I went to the protest against family separation, yesterday. In my smallish town, it was a small gathering compared to others throughout the nation. And, there were a few voices, there. Mainly, they were immigrants-become-citizens or the near-descendants thereof. That is good. The minority voices should be heard. As important as the message I have is, it's just as important that this message be the punctuation of those others. So, I encourage you to read this after you've taken those into account or take this as a reason to take those others into account.
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Note: There was a sequel long after the original. I did not watch that. I've heard of some kind of interactive online fiction. This Case won't take either of those into account. It only references the original movie that we have.

War Games, for those who did not experience the 80s, was the movie in which a Highschool student and early computer gamer nearly causes the nuclear apocalypse. It's a good movie and I would not suggest replacing it. In a decaded marked by a debate over nuclear weapons and shadowed by a cold-war policy of preserving life through the threat of Mutually Assured Destruction, this was a movie with something to say about how we, as a nation, responded.
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This is a well bookeneded chapter. Atwood shows us and lets us figure out, for ourselves, that what she's showing us is the setting of a stage. The furniture is arranged just so and, as they enter, the people will be arranged just so as well. Offred's place in the arrangement is kneeling. Rita's place will be standing there when she could be getting done any of the things she needs to get done. Serena Joy will be sitting. Nick will be standing.

The Commander's place is... late. He's always late. This gives Cora the opportunity to complain about the lateness. This gives Rita the opportunity to scowl (the book's word for it) at Offred. This gives Serena Joy the opportunity to flip through the channels and catch a bit of the televised news.

What's communicated, quite clearly and without having to spell it out, is that this is a stage set, for the Commander, of a household that is full of people content to be in their place, and that staging is a lie.
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This chapter starts with a memory of the time before, wandering through art galleries that had, ubiquitous through the 19th century, paintings of harems and consorts and other bits of eroticism. That is where you would find the classic image of a woman leaning against a Roman-style couch, draped in something gauzy, with an arm over her forehead.

From her current perspective, Offred sees those as less erotic. They're not pictures of women being sexy. They're pictures of women being bored, because they're not currently in use and they're not given much of anything else to do.
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Like most of the chapters so far, this chapter is ritual and memory back to before Gillead. So far, the memories have been about contrast. This time, the memories are starting to be about comparison.

The action of this chapter is Offred takes a bath. That's it. There's a lot of that, so far, such that, if you were looking at just the quick synopsis of the action of any one chapter, you might not bother reading it. But, it remains readable such that I have to resist pushing on.

Offred gets naked, a rare event where her hair's not bound up.
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I'm torn on how to think about the writing of this chapter. On the one hand, it would be insulting to Margaret Atwood to claim that this scene came from her just recording something that happened to her or someone she knows. On the other hand, Atwood has been clear that, at least in historical terms, she made sure that everything that happened in the recent history of her novel had real-world precedent.

And there's that I can't imagine that this didn't happen in the real world at least frequently enough that Atwood would have hear about multiple accounts. Being written in the 1980s, this was still a world where requiring a woman to be your gynocologist would be a relatively new thing on its own, that possibility being relatively new itself.
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My thoughts on Chapter 10 are a bit scattered. I don't know that I can make a singular theme out of this. That's no insult, it's a small chapter and engaging read, so it doesn't need its own theme. It seems like a collection of Offred's thoughts, collected in non-linear manner (perhaps not unlike how the book itself is presented). So, I'll just power through a few thoughts.

The first thing in this chapter is a song you've heard.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
Could save a wretch like me,
Who once was lost, but now am found,
Was bound, but now am free.

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I've neglected to comment on one thread in this story. It's small, but it's thematically important. Offred's initial refusal to call the room she's boarded in hers. That's one bit of very small resistance that she can manage, as it's entirely internal. By not calling this room her own, not using the word "mine" in regards to it, she can deny the identity that makes that room her natural place.

But, the fact that it is so small is what makes this bit of resistance so difficult to keep up. It's a thought that you think without consciously choosing to use that word. So, in the previous chapter when she finds that the Commander was in that room, she's aware of the intrusion and aware that she referred to the room, entirely in her own mind, as "mine".

As a result, this chapter is all about "mine".
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This chapter is one in which we know it's a different day because there are different bodies hanging at The Wall. One of the bodies seems to be the priest or preacher of a different faith. Given bigotries that prevail even today, I would expect Gilead's wars to be especially fervent in their efforts to stamp out Catholicism.

Two other bodies are in Guardian uniforms and the signs hung around their necks state that they were killed for the crime of "Gender Treachery". By Offred's musings of how they might have been caught, we can take that phrase to refer to homosexuality. Today, we'd be more likely to consider the possibility that they were trans.

As a quick aside, my alternate-Gilead game wouldn't be that different from the Gilead we have. Today's religious right culture is filled with the possibilities of "fixing" gay people with "Reparitive Therapy". The Gilead that we have shows neither a sign of the presence of such programs nor a sign of its absence. I can readily believe that Gilead has such programs, but with little funding and, functionally, little value save as a carrot to hang before those accused of "Gender Treachery", to suggest that confessing and naming names would allow them to live and be "fixed".

But, such a program would be required to be very small, indeed, and with a readiness to execute those who haven't been sufficiently "cooperative". This would be a few tokens, enough to have somebody to present for propaganda purposes, not more than that. Reparations and forgiveness of crimes cannot be an element of how Gilead treats crime. Gilead needs executions far more than it needs crime-prevention.
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I've given some thought to how Bright fails as a meditation on racism and bigotry. I am not the only one to do so. For a far better explanation of the failures, please see Lindsay Ellis's video essay on the topic*. Or, you can also see the What Went Wrong installment on the movie from Wisecrack**. Both express failures of philosophy and Lindsay goes into the failures of world-building as well.

For the purpose of having a world with different demographics to be subject of various kinds of prejudice, bigotry, social expectation, etc., I present a work of S. Andrew Swan. Dragons of the Cuyahoga
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I started this deconstruction with a side-project of examining ways that things would be different if the diverging timeline didn't happen during the 80s, when this book was written, but instead now. This chapter is the reason why, or at least a concept I now know was in this specific chapter.

Most of this chapter is flashback to an event in Offred's childhood in America. Her feminist mother took her to a public burning of pornography. She was even given a magazine to throw into the fire, but was too young to know what the pictures were and letting her actually see the pictures was a mistake quickly remedied. But, it was an incident of what was, at the time of the writing, a point of agreement between two unlikely allies.

One ally was, of course, the feminists. They (not all, of course) viewed pornography as essentially disrespectful and objectifying of women. It's worthy of note that they weren't as far off as all that. The culture at the time treated men as default (more so than today, I mean) and treated men as the only consumers of pornography. So, all pornography being built upon fantasy, the fantasies were aimed to men and, yes, were objectifying of women. More on this in a bit.

The other ally was conservative Christians. They viewed pornography as immoral sex, at least akin to premarital or extramarital sex. Or at least that was the stated reason. I'm of a less generous frame of mind when it comes to giving them the presumption of good faith as I've experience with a great deal of bad faith coming from those who both claim ownership of and then defend "the faith".
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Due to some details of my new job that aren't germain to this entry, I've been going around to a few places where I don't have control over the radio. At a couple places, they keep the radio to Country Music. I'll note that it's not my favored genre of music (and I'm not generally a music guy in the first place) and that's the limit of what I'll say, there.

So, I have to say it here. Country Music has changed.

Back in the late 80s and early 90s, when music was still mostly played on either cassette or record, there was still the Satanic Panic about evil messages when Rock&Roll was played backwards. As a result, there was a joke. "What do you get when you play a Country Western record backwards? You get your dog back, your house back, your wife back, your job back."

Country Music focused a great deal on things like small town (usually Southwestern) values and connecting to lower-income experience. That included music that dealt with loss of things like your job and your wife. It wasn't, by any means, limited to that. But, I'm seeing new limits... if nothing else in what gets repeated on the radio.
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We've gotten to Chapter Six and that's the third straight chapter about... a walk... the same walk... in which nothing special happens. The only thing that's out of the ordinary, for the life of the handmaids at the time, is the end of the previous chapter in which foreign tourists ask them if they're happy. And, even then, the response is perfectly ordinary.

Everything about this walk is perfectly ordinary.

It was perfectly ordinary for the two handmaids, strangers to each other, to exchange structured and required banalities. It was perfectly ordinary for Offred (though we still don't know either that name or her former name of June) to note the differences between now and then, because it's not like she has anything else to stretch her mind on. It was perfectly ordinary to feel the constriction upon every inch of her life.

And, now, it's perfectly ordinary for the two to want to take the long way back.

It's perfectly ordinary for them not to be able to get a full look at the sky but take it a bit at a time, to get quick bits of beauty. As Offred says "We have learned to see the world in gasps." Not in flashes or in moments, but gasps. "Flashes" would be just as quick, but it wouldn't put you a mind of the most basic and ever-present necessity of life. That feeling of only being able to sneak in the basic capacity to breathe... also ordinary.
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The theme for Chapter Five is fantasies.

There's a memory of back when there was still America. Our main character was still June and she and her husband would walk down a well-to-do neighborhood and talk about how, some day, they would buy a house there. They knew it wouldn't happen, not on their combined income. But, it was fun to dream, to imagine.

That neighborhood that she and her husband would walk down is now this market area where she and her partner, Ofglen, are walking to shop for groceries. The markets aren't marked by lettered signs, but by things like a wooden porkchop or pictures. Reading is tightly controled in Gilead.

Offred notices a lack of whistling and catcalling, what we now call street harassment and that sparks a different memory of an Aunt saying "There is freedom to and freedom from". This is the Aunt acknowledging that, yes, women are not free in this country. But, allegedly, they're safer. "Freedom from"

The lack of street harassment would seem to be the fulfillment of that "Freedom From", the claim that the lack of freedom at least offers them safety... And that leads down a couple lines of reasoning.
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If there's a singular intended theme to the fourth chapter in The Handmaid's Tale, it's control and the limits of control. That's appropriate as that feeds into the themes of the entire novel. If there's an unintended theme (and I'm not entirely certain it was unintended), it's the potential for motivated mistakes.

We start with a look at Nick. Nick is a Guardian, and one with a cigarette indicating both something to trade and the connections to do so on the black market. He's old enough and ranked enough that he could have been issued a woman, as wife primarily and, potentially, servants in the forms of Marthas and Handmaids. But, for some reason, he hasn't. Either he doesn't rate due to a defect or he just doesn't have the right connections in the system to make that work.
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Enter Serena Joy. Or rather, enter the character who, at the end of the chapter, we will find out is named Serena Joy. This chapter gives us little information, for the most part, on who Serena Joy is. She's blond, she's older than our main character. And, our main character is, in her narrating words, "a reproach" of her.

Serena Joy shows no indication of any kind of empathy or compassion for our main character and, in fact, shows all signs of antipathy. In narration, the main character (who I know is Offred but is yet to be called that) notes that Serena, as a wife, is allowed to strike someone in the main character's position, that of a handmaid, with her bare palm. This has scriptural support.

At the very end of the chapter, our main character recognizes this wife and notes her name. As a young child, before in a world with television and freedom for women (at least more than here and now) she would, on Saturday mornings, search for cartoons on TV. When those weren't to be found, she'd switch to religious programming (before the days of Cable that was easy to find in paid TV time) for story time aimed at young children. Based on that, Serena Joy was a recognizable face, with foreshadowing to note that we'll find out more about her back story.

Our main character, upon this realization, notes that her situation is worse than she thought.

Serena Joy... is Cain.
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This is going to be about "Star Wars: The Last Jedi". There will be spoilers. Warning given cut to follow.
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I'm just starting into my reread of The Handmaid's Tale and, before I really get into it, I know this is going to be different than the other two.

BNW, as I just got through saying in that deconstruction, is more about the false image of the changing values of a changing world than it is about anything real. It's a fear of the different without a full knowledge of what's familiar.

1984 took what was going on at the time, and arguably what is the sins of all societies, and extrapolated from that. I now know why, between the two, it's 1984 that has made the more lasting impression.

The Handmaid's Tale is different. Margaret Atwood constructed both the events that changed American society and the Republic of Gilead from events that had already happened elsewhere. This just isn't as theoretical as either of the previous books.
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