“I need you to sign the form for my refilling. There's a line for "Husband".”— U.S. policies on birth control curtail June's corporal self-determination
The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S.) or America, is a federal republic composed of 50 states that existed before Gilead and the events of the television series/novel. While the novel does not elaborate on the status of the United States beyond it being the precursor to Gilead, the television series establishes that the United States still exists with control of only two states, which are stated or implied to be Alaska (with Anchorage serving as the new but temporary capital) and Hawaii. The US also (reportedly) has control over its island territories e.g. Puerto Rico following Gilead's hostile seizure of the Atlantic and Midwestern states.
Before the Takeover Edit
Prior to the creation of Gilead, the United States--along with the rest of the world--was experiencing a severe fertility crisis. An indication of the severity of this crisis (at least in the television series) can be seen from the birth of June's daughter, Hannah. When Hannah is taken away for her first bath, a nurse at the hospital reveals that, of all of the other births to occur at the hospital that day, two babies are in intensive care and the rest have died.
As a means of addressing this crisis, the U.S. government enacts several policies, such as making it illegal for a man to undergo a vasectomy, and requiring husbands to formally consent to their wives filling birth control prescriptions. Women's right activists, startled by "increasing, sweeping infringements of human rights," state the country "is going down the tubes" (Offred's mother) blaming the administration to be "growing a mass hysteria to control us and take away our civil liberties."
At some point prior to the events of the novel and television series, a radical Christian movement called the Sons of Jacob formed, mostly in response to the infertility crisis. Their membership began to drastically expand. While the specifications of their theology are obscure, they have a stated goal of reversing infertility through a "return to traditional values." One early member remarks that they have a goal of "cleaning up" the United States. Not long before the creation of Gilead, an early leader of the group mentions in conversation with a recruit that the organization has chapters in thirty states.. Articles in the Boston Globe credit them as "old-fashioned" yet "prominent religious group" that "raises new hopes" in the populace. The group was active on social media; in an interview recording June discovers in the Boston Globe archive, one early convert/recruit says he discovered the Sons of Jacob on Facebook and was attracted to their emphasis on children and family values--or "getting children out of their sinful homes" as he put it.
The Sons of Jacob would eventually instigate a coup d'état against the United States government, approximately three to four years prior to the present-day events of the novel and television series. In the novel, this consists of one attack against all three branches of government. In the television series, three separate attacks are carried out against the President, all members of Congress, and the Justices of the Supreme Court, with the White House and the U.S Capitol being explicitly mentioned as locations for these attacks. The attacks are successful with the President, the line of succession, nearly all of Congress and all nine Supreme Court Justices killed, effectively decapitating the entire United States government. The Sons of Jacob promptly seize control of the United States, and shortly afterward, suspend the U.S. Constitution under the pretext of restoring order to the country.
In the novel, it is mentioned that the Sons of Jacob were able to successfully blame the attack on Islamic fundamentalists. This has not been referenced in the television series yet.
After the Takeover Edit
In the novel Edit
Newspapers are censored or closed down for "security reasons," while roadblocks and "Identipasses" begin to appear. Offred refers "everyone approved of that, since it was obvious you couldn't be too careful." Adult services like "Pornomats" vanish (which no one really misses) because "people were complaining." New elections are announced to be held, and that it "would take some time to prepare for them." The regime then freezes the bank accounts of all females and takes away women's civil rights to own property and to hold down a job.
In the TV series Edit
In the immediate aftermath of the staged "terrorist" attacks which took down the President, most of the U.S. Congress, and the Supreme Court, the United States immediately entered a period of martial law. During a flashback, June recalls a newsreel declaring the National Guard's deployment to most major American cities in the immediate aftermath of the D.C.-attacks. By the time the U.S. closes its borders and the new regime begins to implement its policies (stripping women of their property, etc.), Moira mentions that "we've been under martial law since D.C.", in reference to the terrorist attacks that wiped out the U.S. government, implying that by this time the entire nation had been in a full state of military rule for some time.
Although not directly explained, it would seem that some segments of the U.S. military had either converted to, or were at least able to sympathize somewhat with the beliefs of, the Sons of Jacob movement in its earliest days. This would imply that many of the Sons of Jacob ideas – homophobia, antifeminism, hysteria regarding birth-rates, religious fundamentalism, etc. – already enjoyed some popularity among certain sections of the American population, and were readily exploited by the early Sons of Jacob regime. Some articles on "June's clipping wall" seem to back up this assumption.
An American refugee in Canada, a former U.S. Army soldier, states that "one day they just made us all Guardians," implying that whole units of the U.S. armed forces were immediately transferred into ranks of the new regime, while the leadership of other units and commands within the U.S. military remained loyal to the United States Constitution.
The TV series is never clear about which elements of the U.S. military resisted the rise of Gilead, although by the season one of the TV series, the United States of America has been reduced to its two outlying states, namely Alaska and Hawaii. Pockets of resistance loyal to the U.S. Government-in-exile (now based out of Anchorage, Alaska) are scattered throughout the mainland, and are fighting back against Gilead with American loyalist-forces, having firm control of the southern, northern, and western portions of the continental United States.
In the era leading up the rise of Gilead, especially in the immediate aftermath of the Sons of Jacob-takeover, the United States experiences large amounts of social unrest and backlash towards certain groups in society. The Sons of Jacob-regime target the LGBTQ community through "terrorist" attacks, and increasingly-discriminatory laws against gays and lesbians in society.
For example, Emily (later Ofglen, and recently, Ofjoseph) is encouraged by the Board of Regents at the university she works at to focus on her research as opposed to lecturing, since they believe her open lesbianism is creating an unhealthy learning environment. A colleague of hers is later found hanged at the university with the word "faggot" being spray-painted in front of him. Additionally, laws are enacted that make same-sex marriages illegal, and terminates any that exist at that point. Offred/June reads about an "another attack against a gay bar" in her survey of newspaper coverage at the Boston Globe. A war-torn and abandoned small town Luke wanders into is littered with homophobic graffiti.
Women from any and all backgrounds are also targeted by the Sons of Jacob, who enact multiple laws in quick succession that prohibit them from holding any form of employment, and freezes their bank accounts, with funds being transferred to the woman's husband or closest male relative. Protests against these measures are met with violent force and open slaughter of the belligerents. Divorce is outlawed. All second marriages are declared "adulterous" by the state, and are retroactively deemed unlawful. Gilead quickly implements family laws and social policies that effectively seize children from homes deemed "unfit," and oversees their adoption by "fit" but barren couples, most of which are Sons of Jacob-loyalists.
After the takeover, conflict emerges between the Sons of Jacob and the remnants of the United States still under U.S. military protection and/or areas under the control of armed insurgents – i.e., resistance-forces loyal to the U.S. government-in-exile. While the full extent of the conflict is unknown in both the novel and television series, known areas of conflict include New York, Florida, Chicago, and South Carolina.
In the television series' continuity, the United States is eventually reduced to just two states, with Anchorage serving as the new capital, and a U.S. consulate being established in Toronto, ON, around a growing community of refugees dubbed "Little America."
The novel does not give any details as to the extent of the United States's territory in the aftermath of the rise of Gilead, or even as to whether the United States continues in any form.
As previously mentioned, the United States in the television series maintains direct control over only two states, with the implication that Gilead nominally controls the other forty-eight. However, pro-U.S. rebel and citizen-militia activity continues to occur in Gilead, with fighting occurring in Florida, Texas, and around the Blue Hills in Massachusetts. It is mentioned that Gilead's Guardian-units are fighting U.S military forces in the ruins of Chicago, which suggests that the U.S. maintains some presence in parts of Gilead; the extent of this presence is unknown, however. In the Season 2 finale, a map of the continental United States under Gilead rule shows large areas of armed resistance to the regime in the southern United States – Texas, Florida, the Gulf Coast states; the western United States (e.g., California, Oregon, Washington state, the northwestern states along the Canadian border); northern Michigan, and a significantly-large rebel enclave in New England located around Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and parts of New York state.
The former United States of America had been the global economic powerhouse until the President's Day Massacre led to a takeover by the Sons of Jacob, and the subsequent rise of the Republic of Gilead.
A Canadian newsreel mentions that Canada's economy is still recovering from a loss of trade with the former United States (its then-largest trade partner). At any rate, the collapse of the United States, especially the loss of the U.S. dollar as the world's largest reserve currency, would have led to a major shake-up of the world economy, and certainly would have produced an immediate economic recession, if not a total collapse of the world economy.
Foreign Relations Edit
The extent of the remnant United States's relations with the rest of the world are largely unknown, although the presence of a consulate in Toronto and the acceptance of large numbers of American refugees into Canada, coupled with the apparent reluctance of the Canadian government to even allow Gileadean diplomats into the country, implies that Canada maintains an alliance with what is left of the United States.
Early in Season One, Serena Joy mentions that the United Nations has placed economic sanctions against Gilead and that this U.N. embargo should be lifted as to prevent "the collapse of the Euro," suggesting that the member-nations of the European Union (Germany, France, Italy, etc.) do not have diplomatic relations with, and likely have placed economic sanctions against, Gilead. But German automaker Mercedes-Benz maintains some business ties in supplying vehicles and some auto-related companies supplies and accessory products.
Switzerland maintains diplomatic ties with Gilead, mediating a child-custody issue, meaning that Switzerland is the only major global economy to maintain full diplomatic and economic ties with the hostile Gilead, and possibly acts as a protecting power for the rest of the world.
The United Kingdom maintains some trade, and is openly stated to be spearheading the increased sanctions on Gilead.
The Waterfords do host what seem to be relatively low-ranking diplomats from Mexico, although Commander Fred Waterford implies that the talks are not going well; he also mentions that Gilead needs to make progress in trade relations to avert a currency-collapse.
Beth, a Martha who works at Jezebel's, states to Nick that she has access to vodka "courtesy of our Russian friends"; this could be taken to mean that Russia may engage in some type of clandestine trade with Gilead, and a minor economic power that has an embassy or trade mission, albeit on a very small scale, given the global scale of sanctions against Gilead imposed by the United Nations.
Additionally, it is mentioned in passing in Season Two that Canadian and British troops are beginning to station themselves along the Canadian-Gilead border, which could be taken as indication of a continued American alliance with the United Kingdom.
According to Radio Free America, both the People's Republic of China and India have been supporting the Anchorage government in their fight against Gilead with economic aid, while the United Kingdom has raised its limit on the amount of American refugees it will accept (almost all of whom are relocating from Canada), and extends trade sanctions, but not ending all trade entirely.
In the TV series, most of the former U.S. armed forces were either destroyed, routed, or reintegrated into Gilead's army as Guardians. In the pilot episode, American soldiers are described as fighting in Chicago. Afterwards, however, all mentions of armed resistance to Gilead has been described as an "insurgency."
The American rump-state based out of Anchorage has a limited military capacity, and it is known that U.S. Marines are currently guarding the U.S. consulate in Toronto.
- Mark Tuello, Government Representative
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 Episode 2.1, "June (TV Episode)"
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Episode 1.2, "Birth Day"
- ↑ Episode 2.9, "Smart Power"
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 Episode 1.7, "The Other Side"
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 Boston Globe article: Another Night Of Protests
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 6.2 Episode 2.3, "Baggage"
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 Episode 1.8, "Jezebels"
- ↑ Episode 1.6, "A Woman's Place"
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 The Handmaid's Tale (Novel), section 28
- ↑ 10.0 10.1 10.2 Episode 1.3, "Late"
- ↑ Confirmed for the conflict area in Chicago, in Offred (Episode)
- ↑ 12.0 12.1 Episode 2.2, "Unwomen"
- ↑ Episode 1.1, "Offred"
- ↑ Episode 2.13, "The Word"
- ↑ Episode 2.3, "Baggage"
- ↑ Episode 2.11, "Holly (Episode)"
- ↑ Episode 2.9 "Smart Power"</span> </li></ol>