329 years ago today Bridget Bishop was the first hanged in the witch trials. Not the first accused but the first to die. Salem is so full of unique and welcoming town. So unless you were born under a rock and never heard of the place, you would never know what kind of blemish this place has in the American history. Town officials in 1692 killed an innocent 20 persons. But why though? Because this 20 were different. They didn’t fit into the mold of their “normal”. Which is crap…sorry. I digress.
Going and visiting proctors ledge, the execution site and first burial spot of the innocent, is a perfect reminder of that dark part of history. Granted, people usually only come here to Salem because of these people and what they symbolize today. Above each name on this wall, you’ll find rocks and pennies left behind in honor of the victims. Or you’ll find flowers on the stone benches in the old burying point cemetery on each name. It’s crazy how in just a short, simple 329 years later how much the world has changed and how open minded people are these days. None of these people would have died today because no one would have thought twice about what they may or may not be practicing at home.
One of the judges over the trials lived here in this very house. A few bucks for a self guided tour? Not a bad deal. They have it set up as it was during that year or so everything happened. It’s where the victims would have gone at point to share their innocence. Or at least tried to any way. I’m glad Salem turned their town into a major tourist attraction. To help remind people of what NOT to do when it comes to someone else having a different practice or view point. Whether it’s an imagined practice or a real one. That’s kind of the whole point of people coming here to America in the first place isn’t it? To flee religious persecutions? To be free of it and have the freedom without worry.
At the old burying point, you’ll find the small court yard with the flower filled stone benches and then the sidewalk engraved in the final words of these people. Innocent or not, it’s definitely worth a visit. It can be a sobering moment for most. And it can be a good thing. I came here with some knowledge of the place but I’m beginning to learn so much more now that I’m here and I’ve met a few really great people. I don’t regret this place. I don’t regret deciding to stay until the fall.
But for today and the next few months, let’s try and remember to pay attention to what has happened in the past and maybe stop ourselves before we make the same mistakes. History is there to teach us lessons. If we keep doing the same thing, even 329 years later, we won’t get different results. As long as as one’s personal practices aren’t bringing harm to anyone, it shouldn’t mean the death sentence.
As the day ends, maybe we can all reflect. On the things that make us different from each other and why we wouldn’t want to be persecuted for those individual things. Same with everyone else around us. Different religious views? Political views? Or what about different sexual orientations? Cool. Definitely not reasons to execute a person. Yet it still happens. Because we still have that “I’m always right” mentality. Change is scary but we’ve done it before. As we become more progressive, things will wind up being better.