On Halloween night, naturally, we were watching a documentary about the Salem witch trials. It was very interesting, and as part of the show, they did interviews with some historians and had them discuss some of the background around why there was so much anger towards certain people and what role that played in them being accused of witchcraft, etc. One of them mentioned that we probably all hear about that and think that certainly we’d never do anything like that today. Surely we would see through it and never have it come to this.
I think today we do have our own witch hunts. We just don’t hang people for them anymore. Certainly a charge of child abuse is on equal footing to being accused of witchcraft in 1692 Salem. I’ve seen plenty of cases of false child abuse claims being made as part of custody battles, or just vengeful relatives and neighbors. Trying to clear your name once you’ve been accused of child abuse, or rape, falsely is an incredibly difficult thing to do, and even if you clear it legally, the suspicion never goes away.
The sad thing is, this hurts real victims. Real child abusers should be punished, and should have their lives ruined, because they have certainly damaged the lives of children. But the more often false charges are levied, the less likely real victims are to be taken seriously, and the less likely they are to come forward in the first place.
The other thing that reminds me of a witch hunt is current day politics. It’s not enough anymore to simply have different ideas, or disagree about policy. Now, if you believe differently than I do, you’re evil, stupid, or both. If you even think about voting Republican, you’re in league with Hitler, and if you even think about voting Democrat, well you’re un-American, a communist, etc. People aren’t hung for their political leanings, but they sure are shunned by people on the opposite side of the fence as if they were witches. They are hated with as much venom as the so-called witches of Salem.
Seems to me that we haven’t grown at all. The only real difference between 21st century America as a whole and 17th century Salem is that we dislike the mess that comes with hangings, so we try our witches in the court of public opinion, and hang them in name only, for now.