• Gail Wilson Kenna

Animal Farm’s Birth and Queen Elizabeth’s Death

In 1943, the year I was born, George Orwell began writing Animal Farm. After its publication in 1945, Orwell identified the two feuding pigs, Napoleon and Snowball, as Stalin and Trotsky. George (Eric Blair) insisted his “fairy tale” was a warning to the democratic West about totalitarian rule. It is a short work of fiction to reread now!

Having read and studied Orwell, I can imagine what he would say about the July 16th, 2018, meeting in Helsinki between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. After they talked, notes of their private conversation went into the memory hole. If you’ve read 1984, you recognize this term. Protagonist Winston Smith in Orwell’s famous novel has the job of altering truth and obliterating factual evidence. Picture Winston’s desk with a hole in it, which leads to a fiery furnace.

Orwell had seen clearly what the Third Reich did with words and film, not to mention ovens for burning evidence of mass murder. Nazi propaganda was Orwell’s source for Doublethink: War is Peace & Work is freedom, and 2+2 = 5. Shove objective truth into an open mouth, which dutifully swallows it. But remember always to repeat, repeat, repeat, “the election was stolen.” Four words, swelling in size to fill brain-drained heads.

In 1984 Goldstein was the enemy. On August 12, 2017, in Charlottesville, Virginia, it was Jews and many others who were vilified. Yet an autocratic-political God declared the “good” were among the marchers, adding the missing “O” from his divine lexicon to describe them.

Here is my subjective truth, that I find it increasingly painful to run through my head that I’m living in an area where Republicans outnumber Democrats, four to one. I could swallow this fact more easily if I thought half of them were Lincoln Republicans, not followers of Donald Trump.

I also cannot run through my head that Queen Elizabeth has died. I am unable to use the word, dead, or the less harsh “deceased,” and certainly not “passed.” This news yesterday brought forth from my memory hole, June 2, 1953, three days before my 10th birthday. I was in third grade, and my beloved teacher, Miss Leander, felt her students should watch Elizabeth’s coronation. Only four or five in our class had television sets. A luxury then, and my family did not have one. But the students were divided into four or five groups, and with a mother for each group as an escort, we walked to a home to watch the coronation in black and white. This means for 70 years Queen Elizabeth has been in my mind and heart. Given that her mother lived past 100, I assumed Elizabeth would, too. Then her husband, Prince Phillip, died last year, and there had been Brexit, Harry’s hegira to California with wife and child, the lingering Pandemic, Boris Johnson’s antics, and more. The Queen began to look frail, needed a cane, shrunk before our eyes. The last image of her alive is with the new Prime Minister, who appears gigantic in comparison to the Queen. Yet Elizabeth somehow found strength for her last official duty. Forget the biopics and whatever truths and distortions they convey. This Queen, coronated in 1953, displayed endless grace until the end. Writing these words makes my heart hurt, literally. How can anyone alive not be affected by this monarch’s death, a loss of her continuity in our lives? I appear emotionless to others (except for anger). But if you lived inside my throat, you would know how much it hurts right now, knowing seventy years with Queen Elizabeth’s reassuring presence has ended in our troubled world.

My class on George Orwell begins next week and I’ll write about it.

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