It’s not surprising that the Salem witch trials happened and it’s not exceptional that the macabre event, three hundred years later, is a tourist attraction and a marketing gimmick. The most interesting thing I’ve ever read about the Salem witch trials is that several of those responsible regretted their actions : one of the original accusers, several of the jurors, witnesses, judges. Massachusetts even apologizes and “officially” clears the names of all the accused every once in a while – 1711, 1957, 2001. (How long before it sticks?) And even while it was going on, there were those who knew the whole thing was nonsense and a horror. Of course this didn’t help the twenty-four people killed, but still interesting, and, well, good.
I found this interesting because I get the feeling that people of today think they’re superior to people then. Less superstitious, better able to tell wrong from right, not fooled by charismatic speaking, not swayed by peer pressure, they never “catch” mass hysteria (I hate that word too.). And so much smarter.
In Surprised by Joy, C. S. Lewis wrote,
our own age is also “a period,” and certainly has, like all periods, its own characteristic illusions. They are likeliest to lurk in those widespread assumptions which are so ingrained in the age that no one dares to attack or feels it necessary to defend them.
It’s only ordinary that we have our own “characteristic illusions.” What will be surprising is when some of the perpetrators of unacknowledged evil today will regret and repent of their actions and when those who rightly recognized the nonsense and horror for what it is are vindicated. It’ll be too late to take back the damage done, but it will be interesting and good.