We were at the Stratford Festival (in Ontario, not England) last week to see the brilliant play The Crucible by Arthur Miller. It is about the Salem witch trials, and it was written when Miller had seen the effects of the Senator McCarthy Red Scare hearings.
Craig Walker wrote in the program notes:
“But what is the meaning of The Crucible here and now? Naturally, audiences can make up their own minds about this. In recent years, the phrase “witch hunt” has been used in a wide variety of contexts, some clearly more appropriate than others. But what seems painfully relevant is the stark partisanship of the current cultural tone, one in which disagreements in politics, on social media, and even in universities, are ever more frequently framed in a simplistic binary of good versus evil. With such stakes, no real differences of opinion about anything important can be tolerated. One must conform or be an outcast. Perhaps fearfulness is the cause of such absolutism; tyranny almost always justifies itself as a necessary response to imminent threat. Whatever the cause, the ultimate result can be a poisonous stew of sanctimoniousness, viciousness, and blame-shifting. The protagonist John Proctor’s rhetorical question rings out: “Is the accuser always holy now? Were they born this morning as clean as God’s fingers?”
Something to think about the next time a person’s livelihood is ruined by unproven accusations via the HUAC of our day – the #MeToo movement.