What do McCarthyism and the Salem Witch Trials have in common?
It should be stated that these two historical events share several common aspects, on the basis of which they could be compared. First of all, it is essential to observe that both witches in Salem in 1692 as well as communists during the Red Scare period of the 50s were scapegoats of the society. Both of the social groups under discussion possessed specific abnormalities, which differed dramatically from the conventional societal norm of the current period. Also, it is possible to observe the high importance of performing the expected social roles. Witches and Communists were not in compliance with their gender and social functions, respectively, and thus they were viewed as a threat to society. Additionally, these people in both historical circumstances were also judged not only by the government but also by their peers of the same social level.
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What role did Puritanism play in the Salem Witch Trials?
It is essential to state the immense importance of Puritanism for the development of the events in Salem, which led to trials in 1692. One of the primary reasons for the trials against Salem witches (there also were some men among them, but women comprised the majority of the indicted) was that these women went against the expected gender role of a Puritan woman. This role consisted of only one purpose of being a good wife for her husband: to raise children, perform household duties, and go to church. It was the basis of Puritan social hierarchy, which was imbalanced by women who did not comply with the mentioned requirements. Also, it is possible to indicate that a very deep-rooted and possibly the most ignorant form of sexism was prevalent in Puritanism. They considered women to have an inherent familiarity with Satan, which was also a basis for accusations.
What role did the relative isolation of Salem play in the verdict that was carried out?
Another aspect that is worth mentioning in the discussion of Salem Witch Trials is the isolated location of the city. It is apparent that, because it was considerably harder to travel between different cities in the current period of American history, the communities of the towns were very isolated, and thus the relations within the community were the most critical factor in decision-making. There were no such means of connection as telephones; therefore, people could not reach other cities in short amount of time. It is also appropriate to mention that there were numerous difficulties, related to the life in the current period: the provision of food, various diseases, lack of medical knowledge, etc. These factors contributed to the strengthening of the social hierarchy, which was one of the causes of Salem trials. Since the communities were significantly isolated, people had a tendency to be more sensitive to the stability of social roles’ performance.
Do we have any modern counterpart to this sort of group support of a false perception?
Finally, it is essential to discuss the modern examples of such societal support of a perception. It is argued that the policies conducted by Donald Trump represent a very similar situation. In particular, it should be mentioned that the immigration policy, implemented by the president, shares several common characteristics of Red Scare period and Salem Witch Trials. Mr. Trump repeatedly states that the immigrants pose a significant threat to the American society. Thus, he makes these people be the modern scapegoats. There are several infamous policies, which were proposed by Mr. Trump, including the pledge to build a wall on the border with Mexico and the restriction for the citizens of several Muslim countries to enter the United States. It could be suggested that these policies represent a significant level of isolationism, which is also similar to the situation of Salem Witch Trials.