The accused were rounded up and remanded while they waited for a hearing. There wasn’t any promise of a quick resolution despite the guidelines in the governing document. The group’s leaders were also their judges.
They were hostages to ignorance for no more than looking a little different, acting a little different and not appearing to worship the same God. Those identified could hope for the best, banishment — deportation — or expect the worse, death.
Despite the outcome, they would be separated from family and friends. Cut off from any meaningful social network; the imprisoned had to bear the suffering alone.
The tormentors were drained of answers but filled withinsults and name-calling. While the accusers couldn’t put one finger on one fact to condemn the accused, empty and baseless accusations floated above the settlement. The defendants were suspected of vile wickedness based on nothing more than ‘fake news,’ hysteria, and fabrications spread by people who were too scared, too angry and too under-educated to be able to sift fact from fiction.
The Salem witch trials were a famous episode during colonization which began on this date, March 1, in 1692 in the village of Salem.
The trials were a side effect of internal political squabbles and puritanical fanaticism cloaked in paranoia wrapped in stupidity.
Why did the trials happen? The often accepted theory points to the ‘evangelical Christians’ — aka Puritans — who ruled the Massachusetts Bay Colony with impunity and control from 1630 until 1692 when level heads eventually prevailed. A theocracy convinced the bigoted they were on God’s side, and might and right rode with them on their white horses of Satanophobia.
About 326 years later, Islamaphobia and Xenophobia would replace the Puritans’ fear of the devil, but wouldn’t erase one fact: The Puritans were, and are, the ideological ancestors of Trump supporters.
The episode is one of Colonial America’s most notorious cases of mass hysteria. It wouldn’t be the last, and it wouldn’t be the biggest.
The demagogues would rise again against Blacks, Chinese, Germans, Irish, Catholics, Japanese and culminate in a fear-filled and fact-absent mindset against Muslims, Mexicans, and Immigrants in general.
The Salem Witch trials were a cautionary tale about the dangers of isolationism, religious extremism, false accusations and lapses in due process.
Trump supporters should wear their fear, ignorance and bigotry proudly. You may not have much time left to celebrate.
Jerry Nelson is an American freelance writer now living the expat life in South America. His work has appeared in some of the planet’s largest — and most respected — media outlets, both under his own name and others’ as he frequently ghost writes.
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