Wednesday, August 14, 2013

1692 Salem Witch Trials - An extreme scenario of bullying.

Above is a picture of a display at the visitors centre in Salem, Massachusetts, a town known for centuries in the United States for its 1692 Witch trials in which 20, in all likelihood innocent, human beings were murdered, 19 hanged and one pressed to death (tortured) for not cooperating.

Over three hundred years later, the infamy of those days lives on.  In history books.  In references to the town.  Etc.

Salem itself, as a tourist town, capitalizes on its infamy in many ways.  Unhealthy ways to me.  There are now shops specializing in occult paraphernalia.

But that's not what the witch trials were all about.

Salem isn't where witches trod.  It is where ignorance and superstition lived.  Where lives were ruined and snuffed out on the accusation of others.  Where innocent people were accused, jailed and ultimately executed on the say-so of others.  Their cries of innocence unheard and unheeded.

Now, more than three centuries later, people are beginning to realize that what happened in that time to those people was wrong.  It was not about their being witches.  It was about other things.

Things like being bullied.  Things like being unfairly accused.  Things like being voiceless and faceless.  Unheard.  Judged unfairly.

The victims of the massacre are no longer considered witches, perpetrators, but are considered victims.

In 1992 the town of Salem erected a memorial to those who were murdered in the name of justice in 1692.  The memorial is at one side of the cemetery.  

It comprises a stone wall with shelves or benches alongside it.  One for each of the victims.  Their date and method of execution.

To get into the memorial, the visitor has to step across a stone pathway in which are permanently etched the last words of the accused. Words such as:  " I am wholly innocent"; "I was wronged."  Words that went unheard at the time they were spoken but now, three centuries later, reverberate across the corridors of time with their strength, their power ... and their futility.

As a victim/survivor of workplace abuse, I could feel the oppression in the air surrounding Salem especially in that corner of the town where their memory lives on via the memorial and some of their last words and protestations.

As a victim of workplace abuse, I could relate.  As I said before, I felt the oppression.  I also felt almost unbearable sadness and despair.  Similar to current victims of workplace abuse, it didn't matter what these victims said in their defence.  They were ignored.  It was what others said.  The others had all the power - and used it.  The victims were powerless, voiceless.

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Here are some of the last words of those executed in this travesty of justice:
Brave Words of Some of the Accused Witches All of Whom Were Executed
"I am an innocent person. I never had to do with witchcraft since I was born. I am a Gosple woman." Martha Cory (March 21, 1692. From the Rev. Parris account of the examination at Salem Village Meeting House.)

The lord above knows my Innocencye ... as att the great day win be known to men and Angells. I Petition to your honours not for my own life for I know I must die, and my appointed time is sett but the Lord he knowes it is that if it be possible no more Innocent blood may be shed ..." Mary Esty (September 1692. Written while in prison awaiting execution.)

"If it was the last moment I was to live, God knows I am innocent ..." Elizabeth How (May 31, 1692. From the Rev. Parris account of the examination at Salem Village.)

"Well! burn me, or hang me, I will stand in the truth of Christ ..." George Jacobs, Sr. (May 10,1692. From the Rev. Parris account of the examination at Salem.)

"Amen. Amen. A false tongue will never make a guilty person." Susannah Martin (May 2, 1692. From the Rev. Parris account of the examination at Salem Village Meeting House.)

"I can say before my Eternal father I am innocent, & God will clear my innocency." Rebecca Nurse (March 24, 1692. From the Rev. Parris account of the examination at Salem Village Meeting House.)

"The Magistrates, Ministers, Jewries, and all the People in general, being so much inraged and incensed against us by the Delusion of the Devil, which we can term no other, by reason we know in our own Consciences, we are all Innocent Persons." John Procter, Sr. (July 23, 1692. Written while in Salem Prison.)

"... I fear not but the Lord in his due time will make me as white as snow." John Willard (May 18, 1692. From the Rev. Parris account of the examination at Salem Village.)

For most last words of the victims of these witch trials, check out this site:

Today, a play is performed in Salem called Cry Innocent about the trial of the first person accused, condemned and executed as a witch:  Bridget Bishop.  An unpopular woman.  Prone to gossip.  Not very well liked.  So when she was accused, people went along with the accusations.

In present day Salem, the tickets are sold for the play, a "town crier" announces the arrest of Bridget Bishop and the charges again her.  Actors drag a struggling "Bridget Bishop" down the street vainly crying out her innocence and outrage towards the charges.  The people (audience) who are witnessing this event, fall into the procession behind the accused (actors) to make their way to the hall where the play is performed.

I had a strong reaction watching this procession.  All these people falling into line.  Blindly following the leader.  Believing the accusations.

That, my dear reader, is the core of what workplace bullying, neighbourhood bullying, church bullying, etc. is made of.  People blindly following those who are stronger, louder.  People not bothering to stand back and think for themselves.  People caught up in plausible lies.  In the emotion of the moment.  Feeling they are part of something - whatever that something is.

Whatever the dynamic, lives are irreversibly ruined.  

You might say:  "That was then. This is now."  You might also say:  "You're being a bit dramatic here, Cassie, don't you think?  Workplace bullying doesn't resemble this kind of scenario."

It doesn't?  Think about it.  One person (usually at a time) is selected to be the target of accusations, gossip, exclusion, etc.  One by one the bystanders join in.  It doesn't matter what the target says, to whom or how often.  He/she is tried in the court of public opinion, convicted and "sentenced" (the usual form in the workplace being fired).

So what? you might say.  That person is alive.  They can get another job.

Can they?

What about the damage done?  Are you aware that many targets of workplace abuse commit suicide?  Because they've believed the lies rampant in the workplace.

What happened in Salem Massachusetts all those years ago in 1692, was a form of bullying, purging of people that didn't fit in, people who weren't well liked, etc.  It continues on today in many forms.  Most of them not easily recognizable.

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