On this day in 1692, eight people were killed at the Salem Witch trials.
I had intended to post something different today, but I’ve been thinking about the executions that took place last night of Troy Davis, who many believed to be innocent and Lawrence Russell Brewer, who committed a heinous hate crime, as well as the executions that have happened in the past and will continue to happen in the future. There are approximately 3250 people on Death Row in the U.S., of which approximately 64 are women.
I first want to point out a consistency in humanity. This is of course, only one example: In a small village in northern Spain called Garabandal in the evening of June 18, 1961, four girls saw apparitions of the virgin Mary. When these visions appeared, the girls fell instantaneously on their knees and were completely absorbed in their rapture, unaware of anyone or any material thing around them except for each other. They did not react to pricks, burns or blows. All attempts to distract them failed. Powerful beams of strong light were focused on them, yet their eyes did not flicker, blink or show any signs of discomfort. Their eyes remained wide open, expressing a look of intense joy.
The girls then went throughout the entire village – up and down stairways, in and out of homes, at all hours of the day and night, avoiding obstacles without faltering, guided solely by the vision. Frequently, they ran at great speed down the steep mountainside, even backwards, so that it was impossible for the astonished spectators to follow them. (Taken from: http://www.garabandal.org/story.shtml)
The above events at Garabandal were seen as miracles. Many years earlier in 1692 in Massachusetts, several girls and women became strangely ill and dashed about. They dove under furniture, contorted in pain, and complained of fever. They contorted into grotesque poses, fell down into frozen postures, and complained of biting and pinching sensations. They had violent fits, a crawling sensation on the skin, vomiting, choking, and–most interestingly–hallucinations.
Similar events, only in Massachusetts there was no mention of the Virgin Mary and in Massachusetts the girls seemed uncomfortable. In 1692, people thought it was the devil. In Spain in 1961, people thought it was God.
In Massachusetts nineteen people were placed on the Death Row of that time and killed. Eight of them were killed on this day, September 22 in 1692.These deaths in Salem Massachusetts were the Salem witch trials.
By the time the witchhunt ended, nineteen convicted witches were executed, at least four accused witches had died in prison, and one man had been pressed to death. About one to two hundred other people were arrested and imprisoned on witchcraft charges. Two dogs were executed as suspected accomplices of witches.
Tonight in Alabama, Derrick Mason will be executed. He killed a woman who worked at a convenience store. The question to me might be: Don’t you want people who are hurting and killing women to be killed?
On first response, it’s hard to say ‘No’ because of course, I don’t want women killed. But that’s not the answer. In fact, that’s part of the problem. We are saying in our society right now that it’s okay to kill some people to show them or the masses that killing is wrong. But are we really that concerned with righting the wrongs? If we were, wouldn’t we be much more concentrated on rehabilitation and preventative measures?
The Death Penalty in this country is no different than it was in 1692 when we sent people to the gallows. In Salem there were fourteen women and five men. Check out the following link to Women on Death Row for information and stats about today’s women on Death Row by Andrea:
It’s not okay to kill anyone. So, again, what is the message?
We kill people to tell them killing is wrong?
What about the possibility that they didn’t do it?
Troy Davis said he was innocent, as have other people who have died on Death Row in the past. Were the fourteen women and five men killed at the Salem Witch trials guilty of being witches? Historians don’t believe they were. Interestingly enough, in a number of cases, accusing families stood to gain property from the convictions of accused witches. There were also apologies later issued by jurors and judges saying they had been wrong.
Should we take someone’s life from them at all? And what if there is even the remote possibility that we are wrong?
I worked at a Rape Crisis Center full time for six years and then for almost two years part time. I worked with survivors of some of the most horrific sexual assaults, rapes, and human trafficking of children by their own parents here in the U.S. I heard stories of human torture that the courts threw out for one reason or another, turned on the victims to say they were at fault for having been drinking (for example), or gave the perpetrator a sentence of counseling or a very short stay in jail. Survivors of horrific abuse trying to work through their symptoms of trauma and PTSD are so incredibly strong and legally, I would say there is very little justice.
Here we are with a Death Penalty that kills people for harming other people to the point of death, but for other forms of extreme body violation, often there is very little punishment. This is not even mentioning that the victim/survivor may not feel safe enough to come forward and deal with police and District attorneys for two years before it may or may not go to court.
In prison, your body is only partly your own. You are not always protected from unwanted sexual advances. You have very limited privacy. You are searched at times. And people can legally determine whether you should be killed. We need to be able to make choices for our own bodies, including whether we live or die. We have legally sanctioned the violation of people’s bodies, when we don’t really even care that their bodies are being violated.
In Salem, people who scoffed at accusations of witchcraft risked becoming targets of accusations themselves. There is always that risk with speaking up. But we must. For all the women on Death Row. For all the men on Death Row.
A society that says Death Row is okay is a society that will allow people to be mistreated, whether they are innocent or guilty.