We look back at the witch trials as a dark piece of history. A dark piece of history fueled by superstition, ignorance, brutality, and hysteria. We think of ourselves as logical, thoughtful, and a world away from our dark age counterparts. But perhaps these archaic characteristics have simply taken on modern flavors. In America we find Islamophobia, unprecedented gun violence, and law-enforcement using a questionable amount of force on citizens. All one has to do is turn on the ‘news’ to witness the perpetuation of hysteria.
Any idea, right or wrong, truth or lie can take on a life of its own and become twisted. In the case of the witch trials, the wrong and the lies are quite obvious. Even operating under the precedent that witchcraft is real, the false accusations, lack of evidence, and horrific treatment of the accused make the trials a farce and a disgrace. A less clear example is this presidential election. The accusations flying between our candidates are far more real than the accusations during the witch trials to be sure. But these accusations (for our purposes here the validity is your call) are juicy and sensational. These accusations sell papers, get viewers, get people talking. When people are talking about the sensational, other topics go by the wayside. While stuck to the latest soundbite or viral video, questions of corruption, morality, and lack of experience are quietly forgotten. While retelling the most gruesome witch attacks and boisterous court hearings, no one notices the witch-finders and magistrates stuffing their pockets with the values from executed witches’ estates.
Though the witch trials are hundreds of years behind us, we shouldn’t get too comfortable that those days of ignorance and hysteria are behind us. Especially in this age where information and accusations travel at the speed of light, we need to use vigilance to keep hysteria from rising. It doesn’t take much to get people talking, or silent about the things that matter. We need to make the extra effort to spread light, so that the darkness of past days doesn’t take root.