On this day in 1692, five women - Sarah Good, Elizabeth Howe, Susannah Martin, Rebecca Nurse and Sarah Wildes - were executed for witchcraft in what would become the Salem Witch Trials. 325 years later, it bares some reflection.
It was not an accident that these 5 people - and indeed the majority of those executed as part of the Witch Trials - were women. It's no accident that the first person accused of witchcraft in 1692 was a female slave. In a community virtually devoid of free people of color and a diversity of religious backgrounds, women were the obvious target. Fear targets society's vulnerable and oppressed. Fear targets those we've deemed "disposable" and "second class."
325 years later, surprisingly little has changed: Women are still fighting for basic human rights, trying to wrest control from brutish white men in power. People of color are demonized - perhaps not as literally as in 1692, though pretty damn close to it - and blamed for society's systemic ills. Sure, our capacity for tolerance and acceptance has broadly expanded, but the dark impulses within us are still the same. Patterns we enact over and over again. We invoke the term "witch hunt" to justify our feelings of persecution, but most of us who benefit from our innate status and privilege don't know the true weight of it. Most of us will never know the cold terror of being pulled from our beds at night, paraded in front of people who do not love us, never loved us, and yet are deemed worthy of supreme and mortal judgement. Most of us will never know what its like to stand on creaking wooden boards, with a rope around our neck, and be forced to recite the Lord's Prayer flawlessly in hopes of staying our fate. Godly or godless, a rope around your neck is want to make you stutter a bit.
There's a temptation to sanitize and kitsch up the darker aspects of history. The pain endured by these women turns into a cottage industry. A community traumatized by the Indian wars and the sheer brute force required to colonize a salty, shitty climate like New England looks for the devil and finds innocent victims.
We don't take on the name "Salem" glibly. Salem is the core of who we are, in all its challenging, knotted aspects. The community that blooms every fall into a horror tour destination is the same community that bears puckered scars of hysteria, rooted in real human suffering.
The name "Salem" is simply a reminder. It's an albatross around America's neck. Which is not to say that we can't make light of it, even explore the kitsch of it. A man walking around with a bird strapped to his chin is still strange and funny, even if rooted in sorrow and regret. That's the kind of thing that we started this all with in mind.
We played our first show on this day in 2014. This was an accident, but seems ultimately fitting. We don't have solutions to any of the evils of the world, other than periodic mindfulness. It seems important to tell these stories, over and over again, even if we never learn from them. It's important to us.