This was one of the final essays for my English class after reading Arthur Miller's play: "The Crucible". The play is based on the setting and some of the events that took place during the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. The essay itself was to address persecution, what it is, giving modern examples, etc. If you don't know what McCarthy did in the 1950's, I'll be brief: He launched a major anti-Soviet/Communist campaign, accusing many innocent people ruining their lives. His claims were based on non-existent documents.
The Evils of Civilization by Greg Wittel
October 19, 1996
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
Copyright, © Greg Wittel 1996. All Rights Reserved.
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