Throughout the history of mankind, the misapplication of power, marring of souls have been a part of life. How does this affect us, why does it happen? Human emotion plays a major role in prejudice and the politics that surround it are evident in today’s society. Many things can define persecution. No matter how it is defined, it is a tragic event. About three hundred years ago, the witch trials of Salem were a hot topic. Two young girls deceitfully accused a slave, Tituba of witchery. Soon, callous accusations flew and the joke became a sad, sad reality.
Fearing punishment, the two girls kept the charade going. The Puritan religion had no way to publicly admit their sins, and things they regret. Because of this, the trials played a role as an outlet for the society’s misgivings. They had a way to express their feelings without being chastised. This anti-witch hysteria caused innocent people to die at the cry of others. In terror of being victimized themselves, people accused others of compacting with the devil. Hoping to possibly move the focus of the investigations elsewhere, many followed this unfortunate path.
Hatred, denial, dread, perhaps even shock, were all driving factors behind the actions of the townspeople. In the end, almost two dozen innocent men and women were hanged, and hundreds charged or jailed. Moving to a more recent incident, The “Red Scare” of the ’50s is a modern example of how a sophisticated people can be brought to such lows. Wanting to get the public’s attention, McCarthy spawned a massive anti-Soviet campaign. Searches for people working among us that believed in communist views or someone who might know such a person became commonplace.
The crusade itself was based on non-existent claims that some government workers were communists. Senator McCarthy’s “proof” was never seen by anyone, further suggesting that his claims were little more than an attempt to intensify his political power base. Taking advantage of the public’s views of the Soviet Republic communist system, McCarthy did indeed become an influential power in the U. S. Senate. To gain support, he and Abby fed on worries of the general populace. Both of them had gone from a nobody, someone with little control over anyone but themselves, to someone who could control anyone they pleased.
Like Abigail in “The Crucible,” his grapple of the situation soon crumbled leaving him dishonored. Even today, some politicians use such poor tactics as blackmail to increase their own importance. Every person thinks they have some form of importance whether they really do or not. Throughout one’s life, a person is trying to build their claim to fame, to be the leader of the pack. Humanistic emotions are quite powerful. Regardless of what type it is, ecstasy, depression, rage, resentment, or sorrow, feelings are hard to resist.
In Salem, people didn’t voice their opinions. Salemites feared speaking out, they didn’t want the finger to be pointed at them next. Those who did speak out, quickly became part of the Puritan inquisition. During the desegregation process decades ago, southerners indeed welcomed blacks to their schools, blacks were greeted with racial slurs, and more unjust treatment. However, the few that did treat the African-American students fairly, were often the subject of mocking and further harassment. The racial hatred was like an illness.
Either one had it or one didn’t. Such opinions divided the people, unfortunately, the unjust side often was the louder one. After tolerance and understanding has been reached, those who once despised now opened their arms with kindness. The people followed a conversion of hate to love. Today, racial intolerance is almost dead, the remainder is but a grain of sand in a desert. Greed, misinterpretation, and ignorance are all elements influencing the disease of persecution. It has been a part of life and may always be a part.
Only through reasoning, open minds, and foremost, the use of common sense, can help prevent events such as the Salem witch trials, the holocaust, women’s rights, and McCarthyism. Nostradamus predicted that in 1998, the human race shall make first recorded contact with extraterrestrial beings. If, such a day does come two years from now, it will be just the beginning of another era of responsibilities that must be faced. Looking toward the future society, the people must look upon the past to help learn more about themselves and correct one’s mistakes.