Again with the Salem Witch Trials?

I won’t say there’s nothing worse, but there aren’t too many things worse than a person with no interest in or knowledge of American history referencing American history. People like that can focus on a few facts they picked up along the way—probably against their will—and haphazardly inject them into conversations whenever they deem it appropriate.


This is probably how humor began.


I get it: the American president is not required to be a historian. Yet I think also that any American president proud of being an ignoramus should be prohibited from trying to sound as if he isn’t one. This is especially true of Donald Trump who has shown an unalloyed disdain for our shared history—all 243 years worth. Bad enough that he didn’t know who Frederick Douglass was or that he had “recently” passed away—in 1895...or that he attributed some bedroom poster material to Lincoln which our 16th president never uttered—"And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count, it's the life in your years.” Maybe that was Lincoln in his John Lennon days—and in the end the love you take....


For the most part Trump speaks vaguely of historical figures of whom he has little understanding, deflecting criticism by saying "I'm always busy doing a lot. Now I'm more busy, I guess, than ever before." (He could stop tweeting, read a book, and increase his knowledge...but I digress.)


And so, as usual, even among the busiest and most ignorant, there’s always room to dredge up the Salem witch trials. Maybe it’s because we read The Crucible in high school, or because baby boomers actually remember the McCarthy hearings and the “red scare,” or because we are fascinated by the concept of witches. But for whatever reason, the Salem witch trials resonate, even though when it came to executing witches, Salem wasn’t very adept. In fact, the northeastern Massachusetts town was late to the party: Connecticut had been at it and past it thirty years before. And in Europe in the Middle Ages, why it was a Trumpian dream!


As for the president lumping himself together with persecuted women, I appreciate the irony, but he isn’t even close. Witches were imprisoned and often executed based on allegations only. The Monty Python sendup was not far off. The so-called trials in no way resembled the trial Mr. Trump will endure, and his impeachment—carried out in public with a never-ending stream of witnesses on both sides—is a far cry from some hysterical child, annoyed with her mother, who names the woman a witch, then sits back and watches her stoned or pressed to death.


And speaking of death, should Trump be found guilty, he can fly to Florida: he won’t serve prison time or suffer public execution.


Since the onset of his campaign, Trump has relied on the basic ignorance of his supporters, as have (and I hate to admit this) just about every candidate who ever ran for president from either party. But let’s at least agree that the exercising of a Constitutional responsibility is not the same as a trial from many centuries ago whose final determination was already set—at least not until the Senate gets hold of it.

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