First Posted: 5/18/2009
When most people hear the term witch hunt they think of the events of the 1500s and 1600s when thousands of witches were hunted down and burned at the stake.
Most are familiar with the Salem Witch Trials, one of the more infamous instances of American history when more than 150 people were arrested and imprisoned after being accused of witchcraft.
Some people are even familiar with the comparison of the McCarthyist search in the 1940s and 1950s to a witch hunt for Communist supporters.
School children across the country have read The Witch on Blackbird Pond or The Crucible or maybe even both.
The problem with all of this is that these books and these cases happened years ago. There is nothing that relates what happened in the 1600s to the modern world. There are still witch hunts today. An article on CNN recently detailed cases of witch hunts in Africa. Children are accused of witchcraft because they suffer from learning disabilities or epilepsy, or in some cases, because they act out. These children are then banished to the streets where they are forced to beg for or steal food. In case there is any confusion, this is happening today. Let me say that again, this is happening today.
In 1999 a student in Oklahoma was suspended from school for 15 days for casting spells. In 2008, a Saudi woman was arrested and convicted of witchcraft. She now faces execution by beheading. In Kenya in 2008, an angry mob burnt to death 11 people accused of witchcraft. In Florida in 2008, a substitute teacher reportedly lost his job for wizardry.
The list goes on. The question that begs answering is how does one go about proving that another human being is a witch or wizard? If one were to follow ancient tests, they may throw a person into a body of water. If the person drowns, he or she was not a witch. That seems a little extreme to me as you have either just drown an innocent person or condemned a person of witchcraft simply because they know how to swim.
In more recent times, a man determined his grandson was a witch because the child did not cry when beaten with a cane but began to sob when the man tried to beat him with a broom. That clearly makes him a witch. Oh yes, he also tended to run away from home. To be perfectly honest, I would tend to run away from home as well if I was regularly beaten with a cane.
I have to ask, as a supposedly educated society, how can we consciously allow witch hunts, in the literal sense, to continue. I know that witch hunt has come to stand for a number of things, such as searching out someone to blame for a company or governments failure. However, what I am talking about are actual hunts for actual witches.
I would say that history repeats itself, but this is something that has never stopped existing. It is an endless cycle of senseless violence and yet there are few willing to stand up to try to stop it. If we want to affect change in this area, it needs to start in the schools with students learning that witch hunts are not a thing of the past, they are not period-specific to the 1500s and 1600s. If countries across the world would take this small step, they would add up into a possibility for great change.
Morgan Wall is a staff reporter for The Mount Airy News. She can be reached at [email protected] or 719-1929.