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Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. ” Unfortunately, we could not see the future to see that he was right. Fear and greed is the driving force of mass hysteria. According to Dictionary. com, mass hysteria is a socially contagious frenzy of irrational behavior in a group of people as a reaction to an event. The effects of fear and thirst for power are present in both Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible and the treatment of Arab-Americans after 9/11. To grasp the concept, you need to understand the connection.
In 1692, the Salem Witch Trials took place in colonial Massachusetts. Over 200 people were accused of witchcraft and put on trial. 20 of the accused were executed. The evidence was based solely on circumstantial evidence and unreliable testimonies from teenage girls. Fear of the Devil clouded the minds of those in Salem. In 1953, Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible to fictionalize and dramatize the story of the suspected witches in Salem. Since then, the narrative of the trials have become identified with paranoia and corruption. History continues to repeat itself over 300 years later. The fear of the Devil gripped the minds of the Puritans, and the fear of terrorism cripples the minds of Americans today.
Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the lives of American Muslims continue to be influenced by the tensions and practices those attacks released. Although these events took place at very different times, the circumstances are very similar. The enemy’s qualities are always painted as incompatible of those in one’s culture. For instance, Bush Administration portrayed the terrorist as enemies motivated by their “hatred of freedom”. The United States’ government tried to counter terrorist threats by portraying themselves as “fighting for freedom. ” Similarly, Tituba comes from Barbados. Barbados is the heart of voodoo and was commonly associated with the worship of the devil. The Puritans lived their lives strictly through the words of the bible. Through the text, the reader can see how fear overpowers the mind and causes someone to make a haste decision. In the text, Abigail says, ” I always hear her laughing in my sleep. I hear her singing her Barbados songs and tempting me. . . ”.
Fear of the Devil and Tituba’s cultural difference aided to the maltreatment of Tituba and started the mass hysteria within the Salem Witch Trials. After being caught dancing in the woods, Tituba was the girl’s scapegoat because she was a minority and vulnerable. The Puritans were afraid of anything that differed from their beliefs. In comparison, the 9/11 terrorist attacks sent the United States into frenzy. In the first week after September 11, there were 96, 000 leads that people called into the FBI as a possibility of terrorists. By January of 2002, that number had soared to 500, 000. The only power driving these claims was fear of another terror attack. The result is “perversion of justice. ” It leads to the destruction of mostly innocent people’s lives. In the article, “Escaping Salem”, Professor Richard Godbeer opines, “The Salem witch-hunts were an unfair judgment of a group of people. This is a constant trend throughout human history. One group feels they can or should assert power over another. Whether it is to cover something up and get off free, like the girls in the Salem trials. . . ”. In The Crucible, Abigail Williams exploits her position throughout the play by threatening the other girls and continually accusing citizens of witchcraft. Surprisingly, she also uses religion and her position to scare those who are already in power, such as Danforth. Abigail states “Let you beware, Mr. Danforth. Think you be so mighty that the power of Hell may not turn your wits?. . . ”. She sees the trial as a game and uses the trial to get revenge. Before the trials, women were seen, not heard. She gained a voice through the trials. Likewise, after 9/11, the Bush administration worked to use the terror attacks to gain power. The Patriot Act was passed. According to History. com, “The Patriot Act is legislation passed in 2001 to improve the abilities of U. S. law enforcement to detect and deter terrorism. ”
This was the government’s way of breaching Arab-Americans’ privacy. Since 2002, around 780 civilians have been detained at Guantanamo Bay because they were merely accused of terrorism. They are not given the title of prisoners-of-war and they are never given a fair trial. They were not there because they fought against the American forces in Afghanistan, but they are there to extract information about others and to give names, which corresponds to what happened in Salem. The government gained Executive power. According to The Guardian, “ George Bush last night admitted that Saddam Hussein had no hand in the 9/11 terror attacks, but he asked Americans to support a war in Iraq that he said was the defining struggle of our age”. Additionally, after receiving reports that Iraq’s former president, Saddam Hussein, had no hand in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Bush Administration still proceeded to invade Iraq and execute Saddam Hussein without proper reasoning. Why would the American people support a war without proper cause? Fear of another attack is why. Identically, Puritans condemned suspected witches because they feared the Devil was walking among them.
History once again repeated itself in another form. Mass hysteria is the modern terrorism and witches that control us. Our history’s mistakes have been buried which is why has history continues to repeat itself. There is a link between The Crucible and the treatment of Arab-Americans after 9/11. We ignore or punish the voices of those who cry out when they see the injustice. Listening is the solution.
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