Our Interview with LibertyNerd!

Liberty Nerd 1The Internets make for a great place to connect with all sorts of people and share ideas and discussion about thoughts and various topics of interest. We were fortunate to find LibertyNerd, and we knew immediately that her love of liberty and things nerdy would make her an instant friend worthy of following and learning from. For this week’s Freedom Friday, we met up with LibertyNerd in her natural habitat (on the Internet of course) for a virtual interview. Check out that interview below, then check out LibertyNerd’s Facebook page and/or Twitter feed. If you have any inner nerd, even a small bit, we promise you won’t be bored!

Freedom Forge Press:  Tell us about yourself.

LibertyNerd:  I’m 24 years old, currently a graduate student at GMU pursuing a dual MA in History and Education (with the teaching licensure). My undergrad was a BA in History with a focus on Russian History, and a thesis on a futuristic anti-opera from 1913 in the Russian Avant Garde. I’ve got about 24 animals as well! Along with all of that, I am a HUGE Harry Potter lover! With that comes an enjoyment and passion for reading books. I have found that if I’m not reading something, whether it’s a book, journal, news article, etc., my day is boring. For politics, I volunteered for Ron Paul 2012, was lead intern for Ken Cuccinelli for Governor in the Fairfax office, and a founder of GMU Young Americans for Liberty. Rep. Thomas Massie is my favorite Congressman currently serving.

FFP: You call yourself the “Liberty Nerd”. What is the link between liberty and “nerd-dom”?

LN:  There are MANY (and I mean MANY) qualities that are coming about in the media nowadays, along with freedom/liberty aspects that people may not have picked up on before. From Star Wars’ Han Solo being anti-government and marrying a capitalistic Princess Leia, to looking at how the Ministry of Magic in “Harry Potter” tries to meddle with the education system at Hogwarts, there are things that society can take and learn from and try to see the connection between fantasy and reality.

Also, look at Facebook news feeds: they are downright depressing half the time. My goal with my page is to help liberty-minded activists and lovers unite with others that are passionate about things other than just politics. Studying this… “nerd” culture in a liberty-minded way can help others understand our message without some being all up in everyone’s face. I feel like there are many self-proclaimed libertarians that go around and shout at those different from them because they aren’t libertarians, and how is that helping us win people over? It’s not. It pushes people away. By combining what people have been exposed to in Hollywood and the media with liberty-minded philosophies, I think it can be a very strong and winning argument for us (and we don’t have to be mean about it!)!Liberty Nerd 9

FFP: What do you think an average person can and should do to increase his/her own personal liberty?

LN: Just be themselves and constantly learn about the OTHER side of things. If you strictly focus on just honing in on your beliefs, that’s fine…but you will never be able to justify your beliefs by not exposing yourself to the other side of the coin, you know? I remember reading how someone only read stuff by X economist because this individual didn’t believe in understanding any other type of economist’s viewpoints. That’s such a shallow argument! Be well-rounded in your beliefs by understanding and reading up about both sides! Besides, if you stop learning in life and just focus on yourself and you 5ft radius, you’re going to live that shallow life.

FFP: What is your favorite book/movie/story and why?

LN: I have two (I can’t pick just one!). It’s “Peter Pan” and the “Harry Potter” series. I have always loved the story of “Peter Pan” and the idea of never growing up. Even though I’m continuously growing up (I feel we never stop growing intellectually, anyways!), I embrace my childhood and my old imagination. Why live a life without fun and imagination? I feel like that is the message from Neverland: even if you grow up, stay true to who you are inside. This also goes into how to grow your own personal liberty: just being yourself!

Then, there’s “Harry Potter.” I was absolutely part of the Potter generation. Growing up, I was teased in school for being so in love with it, however, I found friends who shared my passion for the books and we all became such great friends. Honestly, that book series taught me more about life and friendships than any other show or book series ever has. There’s truly something magical about those books, and I will always be thankful that I decided to pick up “Sorcerer’s Stone” on a random whim when I was 10 years old. Also, to go along with Potter, the fifth book, “Order of the Phoenix” has MANY anti-government qualities and themes to it, and Rowling herself believes we should always question authority. It’s very interesting to see how things from that book are playing out here in our education system or our government today (education reform, spying, torture, control, etc.)

FFP: Who is your favorite pro-liberty hero in a sci-fi or fantasy story (book or movie)? Why?

LN: I’ve got two, a male and a female. This is going to sound really generic, but I heavily connected to Katniss Everdeen from “The Hunger Games.” Even from a non-political standpoint, I connected to her. Like Katniss, I also have a little sister that reminds me of Primrose Everdeen, and I would have absolutely volunteered as tribute for my sister as well. Politically speaking, Katniss is strong and hates what the Capitol has done, yet she remained apolitical and went along with it for a while, until she worked out a way to get around the government. I mean, how badass is that? Infiltrate the system by getting to know it, then demolish it from within. She also doesn’t like the attention, but she accepted it in order to prove a point to the Capitol. She’s also headstrong, stubborn, skillful, and when all is said and done, loving.

Also, Captain Malcom Reynolds from the show “Firefly.” He cares for his crew, hates the government, and will do what he can to evade it. You don’t want to cross this guy, especially when he’s wearing a “pretty floral bonnet.”

FFP: Flip side: who is your “favorite” anti-liberty villain in a sci-fi or fantasy story? Why?

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LN: Professor Umbridge from “Potter.” I absolutely hate that character more than Voldemort who was the epitome of evil! She’s my favorite, though, mainly because there’s a plethora of things we as a society can learn from her. She doesn’t want us to defend or protect ourselves because there’s “nothing out there to harm us”? Ha, apply that to the world today! Look at what’s around us. Our right to defend ourselves is bring infringed upon, just like Umbridge tried to do the same to students. No wands were allowed in class, and the students revolted and were like, “Oh hell no we’re gonna do our own thing,” and they did and became very strong wizards. Umbridge is the character we love to hate, and also just flat out hate.

FFP: Education seems to be a priority for you. Why is this a concern/priority for you, and what do you want to change?

LN: Well, I want to be a teacher in the system…so take what I said about Katniss and apply it here! I think there are ways around the system in order to teach students. Many believe we have to just teach students with an outline and teach them the what’s and the who’s of history…but why not the how’s and the why’s? History is an abstract concept, and yet it’s taught to be either black or white. Not acceptable. I want to change how history is taught in school, and I want to show people how it is being taught. There’s a video on my Facebook page of an American History textbook for 11th grade, and it doesn’t have ANY documents in it! No Constitution, no Bill of Rights, no Articles of Confederation, no Gettysburg Address (even THAT’S surprising). It’s downright pathetic that this is how the State expects students to learn. It’s all about profit instead of actually teaching students nowadays. It’s all about how well students can memorize instead of learn and think for themselves, which causes students to expect the answers right in front of them, instead of applying what they already know. It’s all about how well students do well on a standardized test. Whatever happened to how well students can perform individually, think for themselves, or take personal responsibility for their own grades? It’s a sad state of affairs for education.

FFP: Where can people find you online?

LN: They can find me online at my Facebook page  or they can follow me on Twitter @Liberty_Nerd

FFP: What can people expect when they visit your site/page?

LN: A mix of nerdy things (books, movies, shows), space articles, political things, maybe a pic or a million of my cat Tootsie. It’s being designed to be a FUN page to brighten up news feeds, a place to post articles/pictures of nerd culture combined with political thought. Also, expect interaction from me! I think it’s great when admins of pages personally respond to people. It creates a sense of community instead of anonymity.

FFP: Is there anything you wanted us to ask that we didn’t (and answer!)?

LN: My political beliefs are liberty minded. I do have libertarian qualities, but I also have a few conservative ones as well (example, many libertarians are pro-choice while I am pro-life for personal reasons!).

I’m terrible with economics, I really am, and I don’t hide this factor. It bothers me when people think they know all the things in the world and that they’re always right. I don’t hide behind the fact that I don’t know everything – no one does, and I’m okay with that. Another factor with my page is that I hope to learn from others about certain topics, such as economics, and build upon it.

Dystopia Tuesday – Thank You Tracy Lawson!

2013_12_17_Tracy_Portrait_69For the last several weeks, we’ve featured a series of comparisons of select literary works in the dystopia genre. We’d like to take a moment to give author Tracy Lawson a shout out and thank her for her contributions and use today’s post to point out where you can find out more about Tracy and her own contribution to dystopia works in The Resistance Series.

Find out more about Tracy at her website, or just read on for her bio and current project, The Resistance Series.

(Her Bio!)

TRACY LAWSON has wanted to be a writer ever since she learned to read. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Communication from Ohio University, and though she embarked on a career in the performing arts as a dance instructor and choreographer, never lost her desire to write, and thus far has to her credit a coming-of-age dystopian thriller and an historical nonfiction. Her interest in writing for teens is sparked by all the wonderful young people in her life, including her daughter, Keri, a college sophomore.

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(Her Book!)

Counteract: Book 1 of the Resistance Series (2014) is the story of a guy, a girl, the terrorist attack thatTracy is the author of Counteract.

brings them together, and their race to expose a conspiracy that could destroy their country from within. What Tommy and Careen learn about the true nature of the terrorist threat spurs them to take action, and their decisions lead them to run afoul of local law enforcement, team up with an underground resistance group, and ultimately take their quest for the truth to the highest reaches of the United States government. The second book in the series is slated for release in 2015.

Freedom Friday: Promoting Freedom by Transcending Party Politics

At Freedom Forge Press, we’ve always been bothered by politics and the way the two-party system tends to divide people along rigid, artificial lines: much like a high school pep rally, it’s “us” versus “them” with no room for dissent. Clearly, this mentality becomes destructive when trying to use rationality to solve important issues.

We were heartened to view the following video, put out by Reason (link to http://reason.com/reasontv/2015/02/19/what-we-saw-at-isflc-2015), about last weekend’s International Students for Liberty Conference. The liberty movement seems to attract individuals who express disagreements with the two major political parties, namely with the Republican and Democrat propensity to limit freedoms. Each party seems happy to limit freedoms, as long as those limits serve the party’s best interests.

The students featured in this video seem to transcend the limits of the two-party system, focusing on liberty and freedom for all. Seeing young people so involved and already using critical thinking skills to question policies that govern their world is heartening indeed. They can envision a world with greater freedoms, and imagination is the first step to achieving.

It left us feeling just a little brighter about the future.

Dystopia Tuesday: The Girl Who Owned A City by O. T. Nelson

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At a recent talk, I cited The Giver by Lois Lowry (1993) as the first YA dystopian book, but at the time I hadn’t read The Girl Who Owned a OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACity by O. T. Nelson. First published in 1975, it has been in the curricula in elementary and middle schools for years, and many adults of my generation cite this book as their first taste of the dystopian genre.

A book about post-apocalyptic Chicago might first bring to mind the Divergent series by Veronica Roth, but The Girl Who Owned a City might best be compared thematically to Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I don’t say this lightly–Atlas Shrugged is one of the heavy hitters of the genre, but consider the situation in this children’s book:

A great plague has swept the country, killing everyone over the age of twelve. Without public utilities, services or adult supervision, children band together in family groups for protection, and must forage and steal in order to get the food and supplies they need to survive.

Though it doesn’t fit my stated definition of a dystopia as a twisted version of perfection, it’s an excellent example of post-apocalyptic science fiction. Lisa, the ten year-old protagonist, makes some interesting observations about human nature as she struggles to survive and defend her home and the other children in her suburban Chicago neighborhood against marauding pre-pubescent gangs. In doing so, she becomes aware of her desire for liberty in a way that makes this a very timeless, and timely, read.

In one scene, Lisa discusses a group of children who’ve been adopted by her friend Jill. The children whine and bicker over their few communal toys, and Jill is constantly admonishing them to share. Lisa thinks the children will be happier if they are given jobs, and the opportunity to earn new toys that will belong to them, and only them. Out of earshot of the children, Lisa says, “I’ve been watching your children for days, Jill. Just watching and thinking about them. They do too much sharing and it isn’t working at all. They have nothing of their own—no real duties, no real way of helping. It’s nice to share things if you want to, but it’s stupid to force people to share or be nice. These are things people have to do on their own. Otherwise it’s no good.”

Jill argued that the children are frightened. They’ve lost their parents and their sense of the world. They need coddling, not jobs.

Lisa replied, “I don’t think they’ll ever be happy if you do everything for them. They need to work and be proud of themselves. They need to be able to say to themselves, “I worked hard and did a good job and earned my toy.”

The narrative goes on to say, ‘Lisa wanted to say something about how she had lost her own fear by solving problems and staying busy. It seemed to her that fear was what you felt when you waited for something bad to happen, and fun was what you had when you figured out a way to make something good happen.’

Despite Lisa’s attempts to create a neighborhood militia to protect the children on her street from the Chidester gang, and her idea to learn to drive a car so she could go to a grocery warehouse for food and other supplies, the gangs stage multiple attacks. She despairs until she notices a school building which has a wall around it, like a fortress. She decides to move everyone from her neighborhood into Glenbard and make it into a walled city. Everyone is enthusiastic about the plan, but after they move in and organize the school according to Lisa’s vision, some of the children begin to grumble that she calls Glenbard her city. Lisa’s response is a response worthy of a young Ayn Rand protagonist:

“Lisa, why do you keep calling it your city—saying it’s your property?”

“Because it is! I thought I told everyone that on the very first day.”

“But we’ve all helped build it, haven’t we?” argued Jill. “The kids are starting to call you selfish. They don’t like it when you call it yours.”

“Selfish? I guess I am. But there’s more to it than that. Don’t forget, it was my discovery. The place was sitting here empty…I found it. I planned it, filled it with my supplies, now I run it.

“I know you like to share things, but it just doesn’t work the way you’d like it to. In the first place, nothing would ever get done. With no one in charge and no one to make decisions, the group would argue all the time about whose property should be shared. And then …they’d be too busy to accomplish anything.

“I do own this place. I didn’t force anyone to come here…Call me selfish if you like, but I don’t want to own anybody. I don’t want anyone to own me…Freedom is more important than sharing, Jill. This is my city. I plan to run it well and build it into something good. But I have to do it the way I think is best.”

Lisa decides the best way to run her city is to offer something better to her citizens than they can find anywhere else.

  ***

Editor’s Note: This blog post was originally published at www.counteractbook.com and is used with the permission of the author.
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TRACY LAWSON has wanted to be a writer ever since she learned to read. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Communication from Ohio University, and though she embarked on a career in the performing arts as a dance instructor and choreographer, never lost her desire to write, and thus far has to her credit a coming-of-age dystopian thriller and an historical nonfiction. Her interest in writing for teens is sparked by all the wonderful young people in her life, including her daughter, Keri, a college sophomore.

Tracy is also the author of Counteract.

Counteract: Book 1 of the Resistance Series (2014) is the story of a guy, a girl, the terrorist attack that brings them together, and their race to expose a conspiracy that could destroy their country from within. What Tommy and Careen learn about the true nature of the terrorist threat spurs them to take action, and their decisions lead them to run afoul of local law enforcement, team up with an underground resistance group, and ultimately take their quest for the truth to the highest reaches of the United States government. The second book in the series is slated for release in 2015.

For more about the book, check out Tracy’s website for a synopsis.

There’s even a book trailer!

Scholarship Contest Celebrates the First Amendment

Turning on the news can be a scary thing, so we love it when we hear some good news for once, especially on the freedom front. We’ll be sharing a bit of positive freedom-themed news each week for Freedom Friday. Catch something in the news you want to share? Send it our way. In the meantime, let freedom ring!

We were thrilled to see that JEA, the Journalism Education Association, has planned a freedom scholarship opportunity encouraging students to celebrate the five freedoms of the first amendment– speech, press, religion, assembly and petition.

From the site:

“From Feb. 22 to 28, students 13 and older are encouraged to share original photos and artwork on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #PictureFreedom. Make sure that posts are public, and if posts are being shared on Facebook, the account should allow people to follow it. A panel of educators and First Amendment experts will pick the top 25 posts based on originality, creativity and clarity in conveying the theme of freedom. Winners will each receive a $1,000 scholarship.”

We applaud any opportunity to remind students of the freedoms they enjoy in this country.

You can read more here: http://jea.org/blog/2015/02/03/picture-freedom-scholarship-contest-planned-feb-22-28/

Dystopia Tuesday: That Could Never Happen – A Look at The Lottery by Shirley Jackson and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

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When “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson first appeared in The New Yorker in June 1948, people averted their eyes. Many canceled their subscription to the magazine. Jackson received hate mail. People wrote to ask if the short story were fiction—and if not, where did these outlandish rituals take place, anyway?

The New Yorker’s boilerplate response to questions about The Lottery read: “Miss Jackson’s story can be interpreted in half a dozen ways. It’s just a fable…She has chosen a nameless little village to show, in microcosm, how the forces of belligerence, persecution, and vindictiveness are, in mankind, endless and traditional and that their targets are chosen without reason.”

Dystopian fiction seeks to examine what people will accept as the status quo, and what it takes before The Lotteryindividuals will rebel.

At the outset of “The Lottery”, the purpose of the annual lottery in the small farming community is unclear. The children are seen piling up stones, and the elders carefully allot one slip of paper for each head of household in the community. Some grouse about the “fools” in other communities who are talking about giving up the lottery.

Tessie Hutchinson, a housewife, goes along with the status quo—until after her husband draws the slip of paper with the black mark. Then she begins to protest, saying it wasn’t fair—he didn’t have a chance to choose properly. Her reaction causes the reader realize that winning this lottery has dire consequence.

The entire Hutchinson family is made to draw slips of paper, and, though their mother continues to protest, the three children go along with the proceedings willingly. They proudly display their blank slips of paper. Their mother has drawn the black spot this time. And the townspeople react thusly:

“All right, folks.” Mr. Summers said. “Let’s finish quickly.”

Although the villagers had forgotten the ritual and lost the original black box, they still remembered to use stones. The pile of stones the boys had made earlier was ready; there were stones on the ground with the blowing scraps of paper that had come out of the box. Mrs. Delacroix selected a stone so large she had to pick it up with both hands and turned to Mrs. Dunbar. “Come on,” she said. “Hurry up.”

Mrs. Dunbar had small stones in both hands, and she said, gasping for breath. “I can’t run at all. You’ll have to go ahead and I’ll catch up with you.”

The children had stones already. And someone gave little Davy Hutchinson a few pebbles.

Tessie Hutchinson was in the center of a cleared space by now, and she held her hands out desperately as the villagers moved in on her. “It isn’t fair,” she said. A stone hit her on the side of the head. Old Man Warner was saying, “Come on, come on, everyone.” Steve Adams was in the front of the crowd of villagers, with Mrs. Graves beside him.

“It isn’t fair, it isn’t right,” Mrs. Hutchinson screamed, and then they were upon her.

I read The Lottery in sixth-grade English class. The teacher also showed us the short film (made in 1969) and even though some thirty-five years have passed, when I watched it on YouTube prior to writing this post, the images were fresh and familiar, still seared on my brain.

How could something like that happen, even in a story? At the time, I felt certain there was no way—no way—that the adults in my world could ever let something like that happen.

I was too young to be cognizant of the atrocities of genocide or war. This simple community ritual, as depicted in “The Lottery”, paled by comparison to the horrors of the real world.

So why did people avert their eyes? Because the truth hurts. If everyone were jumping off a bridge, would you jump, too? Shirley Jackson’s story asserts that we would.

As every parent of teenagers knows, the degree of stupid recklessness that takes place is directly correlated to the number of teens involved. (I’m right—you know I am.)

“The Lottery” could have been a blueprint for The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, which the American Library Association reports was one of the most challenged books of 2013, mostly for religious reasons and because the book was unsuited to a particular age group.

Surely the horror and violence in The Hunger Games outstrips the horror in “The Lottery”. Collins herself acknowledged her dystopian stories were not for everyone, telling The Associated Press at the time that she had heard “people were concerned about the level of violence in the books. That’s not unreasonable. They are violent. It’s a war trilogy.”

speak the truth quoteThe idea of teens being forced into killing one another on reality television seems outrageous. That could never happen. Right?

Both stories follow a common theme in dystopian fiction: human nature can be threatened by external forces until man becomes violent and inhuman.

That message should never be banned.

 

  ***

Editor’s Note: This blog post was originally published at www.counteractbook.com and is used with the permission of the author.
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TRACY LAWSON has wanted to be a writer ever since she learned to read. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Communication from Ohio University, and though she embarked on a career in the performing arts as a dance instructor and choreographer, never lost her desire to write, and thus far has to her credit a coming-of-age dystopian thriller and an historical nonfiction. Her interest in writing for teens is sparked by all the wonderful young people in her life, including her daughter, Keri, a college sophomore.

Tracy is also the author of Counteract.

Counteract: Book 1 of the Resistance Series (2014) is the story of a guy, a girl, the terrorist attack that brings them together, and their race to expose a conspiracy that could destroy their country from within. What Tommy and Careen learn about the true nature of the terrorist threat spurs them to take action, and their decisions lead them to run afoul of local law enforcement, team up with an underground resistance group, and ultimately take their quest for the truth to the highest reaches of the United States government. The second book in the series is slated for release in 2015.

For more about the book, check out Tracy’s website for a synopsis.

There’s even a book trailer!

Dystopia Tuesday: Procreation and Power – Comparison of Bumped by Megan McCafferty and The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood

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“The United States of America once ranked above all industrialized nations in the realm of teen pregnancy. We were the undisputed queens of precocious procreation! We were number one before, and we can be number one again!” –President’s State of the Union Address, Bumped

What’s to be done when a country faces an infertility crisis? Women of childbearing age become the most precious commodity, the most sought-after natural resource. Will they be celebrated and pampered—or subjugated—to spur the creation of the children essential to the society’s survival?

That’s the question in both Bumped by Megan McCafferty and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. The societies depicted in these novels both formulate plans to replenish their populations through surrogate mothers, and their governments launch propaganda campaigns that sanction and even glorify using women as breeders. Bumped

Though teen sex is glorified in pop culture and slang in the young adult novel Bumped, the actual details of bumping are kept appropriately veiled, while in the dystopian horror story The Handmaid’s Tale the rituals of mating with a surrogate are relayed in stark detail.

Religion and its influence on people’s attitudes toward procreation is central to both stories. In Bumped, the Goodside religious community seeks its own solution to the country’s infertility issues, and in The Handmaid’s Tale, the theocratic government blames the lack of healthy children on a permissive, promiscuous society, and aims to correct the problem by properly subjugating women.

In Bumped, 75% of the teenagers in Melody Mayflower’s high school class are infected with HPSV, the Human Progressive Sterility Virus, and will go irreversibly sterile sometime between their eighteenth and twentieth birthdays. These stats are the norm nationwide, and the teens in Bumped are bombarded with songs whose lyrics glorify pregnancy. Trendy stores at the mall that sell provocative clothing and “fun bumps,” strap-on bellies that show the girls how sexy they’ll look when pregnant. Even school clubs like the Pro/Am Pregg Alliance put the focus on procreation.

Teens are pushed to have as many children as possible before they reach the age at which they’ll become infertile. They use the drug Tocin, which lessens inhibitions and causes memory loss, to help set the mood and make it less embarrassing to bump with partners they barely know. Later, they’re told, after they become sterile, they can attend college, get married, and adopt children of their own, and build their lives with someone they love. But for now, bumping with lots of partners is a way to keep the human race going until the full effects of the virus are known.

“A free society cannot force girls to have children, but a free market can richly reward those who do.” Ashley and Tyler Mayflower, PhDs, Princeton University

Melody’s parents, both economics professors, adopted her when she was a baby, and they’ve spent her entire life developing her brand and molding her into the perfect Surrogette—beautiful, accomplished, and intelligent. When she was fourteen, Melody’s virginity was brokered to the highest-bidding couple, which was a radical idea at the time, but now pregging for profit is something to which  teen girls aspire. Melody received a six-figure signing bonus, and, In exchange for giving birth to a healthy child, she can count on a new car, liposuction, and college tuition. She’s been paired with Jondoe, the most genetically flawless bumping partner available, and they’re scheduled to do the deed as soon as possible. Melody’s been preparing for this her whole life. So why is she having reservations?

It turns out there’s more than one obstacle blocking the successful execution of her parents’ plans.

The first hitch shows up on Melody’s doorstep, in the form of her long-lost identical twin, Harmony. The girls were separated at birth, and Harmony, the frail, sickly twin, was adopted into a religious sect called Goodside. Now, Harmony’s run away from her community to save her sister from a life of sin. And she’s got a few ideas about saving herself, too.

Though Harmony has been reared to believe that life for a woman is JOY: Jesus first, Others second and Yourself last, she’s not comfortable with all the tenets of her faith-based community, and is especially distressed by the scripture in 1 Corinthians, which dictates that the wife’s body belongs to her husband. Early marriage and procreation are of paramount importance in the theocratic communal society of Goodside. Girls are raised to be mothers, nothing more. Harmony’s not sure how she feels about arranged marriage, and she flees rather than commit to a lifetime with someone she doesn’t love. When Jondoe mistakes Harmony for Melody, she’s more confused than ever.

Melody’s BFF, Zen adds to the problems. He’s sweet and charming and would be the perfect boyfriend, except he’s not “upmarket” enough to be Sperm for a Surrogette like Melody.  Though he’s desperately in love with Mel, is Zen destined to be just an “Everythingbut” for a professional pregger like her?

Neither situation is healthy for these young girls. Melody feels responsibility as the president of her school’s Pro/Am Pregg Alliance to set an example of pregging for profit that influences other girls, for better or for worse, never mind that she’s the oldest virgin in the club. The girls in Otherside may believe it’s easy to stay emotionally detached while having sex, giving birth and then turning their children over for adoption, but Melody learns that’s not always the case.

Harmony rebels against her austere and restrictive upbringing, while Melody rebels against her parents’ plan for her. But at least in Bumped, the girls retain some autonomy. The decision to bump or not to bump is still theirs, despite peer pressure and a growing demand for children to adopt. Many teens will enter the baby market, but they won’t have to pregg at the point of a gun.

Handmaid's TaleNot so for the unfortunate Handmaids.

“Our big mistake was teaching them [women] to read. We won’t do that again.”

The Handmaid system of repopulating the Republic of Gilead (formerly the United States) came about after a decline in healthy births in the late 20th century, which was attributed to many factors, including the rampant use of birth control, abortions, AIDS, syphilis, nuclear accidents, and the uncontrolled use of herbicides and insecticides.

At first, surrogates were hired, but when the number of healthy births continued to decline, the government declared all second marriages and non-marital liaisons adulterous, arrested the women in those relationships, and confiscated and adopted out their children to upper class families. The women were given the option of becoming surrogates. But it was never really an option.

Childless or infertile older women were recruited as Aunts to help run the Handmaid indoctrination programs, and wives who were unable to have children of their own took part in and supported the system that made sex slaves out of other women. After all, a little power is better than no power at all.

“There is more than one kind of freedom, said Aunt Lydia. Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don’t underrate it.”

Commanders, men highly placed in the regime, chose Handmaids for their households from among the indoctrinated women who had demonstrated reproductive fitness.

“Not every Commander has a Handmaid; some of their Wives have children. From each, says the slogan, according to her ability; to each according to his needs. We recited that, three times, after dessert. It was from the Bible, or so they said. St. Paul again, in Acts.” Take away free access to information and enslave.

The mating ritual was an absolute horror which forced Commander, Wife, and Handmaid to take part in a regimented copulation designed to reduce the Handmaid to nothing more than a vessel held by the Wife to receive her husband’s seed. To say that it warped the sex act for all concerned would be a gross understatement.

Many Commanders of the regime came in contact with a sterility-causing virus developed by scientists, Pre-Gilead, which were intended to be used on the Soviets.  But it was against the law to insinuate that a Commander could be sterile, so Commanders, Wives, and Handmaids went through the horror of the mating ritual, month after month, until the Handmaid either conceived, went insane, or was traded in by the family for a better specimen. Younger men of lower classes were shut out of marriage entirely. But Handmaids often risked their lives to use these men as studs when their Commanders failed to impregnate them. The risk was great, but the reward for producing a healthy child was even greater: it guaranteed that a Handmaid would never be sent to any undesirable location, never be made to shovel up the polluted waste in the Colonies or be a prostitute at Jezebel’s gentleman’s club.

Handmaids were identified by their red full-length robes and veils, and were tattooed on their ankles, a “passport in reverse…supposed to guarantee that they will never be able to fade, finally, into another landscape. I am too important, too scarce, for that. I am a national resource.”

The narrator in The Handmaid’s Tale never gives her real name. Handmaids were stripped of identities other than “Ofglen” or “Ofwarren” which associated them with their Commanders. If they changed households, they changed names. Handmaids were discouraged from forming relationships of any kind with the families they served.

“We lived as usual. Everyone does, most of the time. Whatever is going on is as usual. Even this is as usual, now.”

Both novels demonstrate how far things can spin out of control when people are forced into unnatural behaviors and brainwashed to believe that it’s just business as usual.

  ***

Editor’s Note: This blog post was originally published at www.counteractbook.com and is used with the permission of the author.
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TRACY LAWSON has wanted to be a writer ever since she learned to read. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Communication from Ohio University, and though she embarked on a career in the performing arts as a dance instructor and choreographer, never lost her desire to write, and thus far has to her credit a coming-of-age dystopian thriller and an historical nonfiction. Her interest in writing for teens is sparked by all the wonderful young people in her life, including her daughter, Keri, a college sophomore.

Tracy is also the author of Counteract.

Counteract: Book 1 of the Resistance Series (2014) is the story of a guy, a girl, the terrorist attack that brings them together, and their race to expose a conspiracy that could destroy their country from within. What Tommy and Careen learn about the true nature of the terrorist threat spurs them to take action, and their decisions lead them to run afoul of local law enforcement, team up with an underground resistance group, and ultimately take their quest for the truth to the highest reaches of the United States government. The second book in the series is slated for release in 2015.

For more about the book, check out Tracy’s website for a synopsis.

There’s even a book trailer!

Government Debt Levels Equate to Unsportsmanlike Conduct on America’s Future

american-football-151765_640Just in time for the Big Game tonight!

The NFL as an organization has a very expensive evening ahead of it. The organization expects to pay approximately $97,000 per player for each person on the winning team’s 53-man roster. It’ll also pay $49,000 per player to the losing team.

Then there’s the trophy: an estimated $12,500 expense from Tiffany and Company for the Vince Lombardi Super Bowl Trophy to be awarded to the winning team.

The NFL also kicks in a subsidy toward commemorative jewelry for the winning team – $5,000 per person up to 150 pieces for players, coaches, and other team support staff. The losing team can expect a $2,500 per person subsidy.

And last, but certainly not least, the game balls–properly inflated we can only hope. Each team receives 54 game plus an additional 12 balls for kickers for a total of 120 balls at an estimated $150 per ball. Total cost: $18,000.

All in, the NFL can expect to fork over $8,839,500 in Big Game consumables and bonuses alone.

The US Government’s current debt exceeds 18,104,541,000,000 (18 TRILLION…). The US government’s debt could have paid for 2,048,140 Super Bowl events. That’s enough Big Games to fill 5,607 years worth of Super Bowls if one game were played every single day.

Talk about pass interference! Each dollar of debt will need to come from somewhere, be it raised taxes, reduced spending for actual legitimate federal government expenses (few as those may be). With as big a trench as politicians from both political parties have collectively dug (and continue to dig!) for American taxpayers of the present and future, one has to hope sooner or later voters will muster the courage to throw a penalty flag at all politicians who promise hope and change but fail miserably to deliver.

PHOTO CREDIT: “American Football” a free vector graphic from Pixabay.