The March From Salem To Charlottesville

In the winter of 1692, Massachusetts Bay Colony was rocked by allegations of witchcraft. In January, a group of young girls from Salem Village claimed to be possessed by the devil. The girls were taken to a doctor who determined they had been “bewitched”. The girls aged 9 and 11 accused a local slave named Tituba of witchcraft.


In early February Tituba was arrested and admitted to being a witch. During her confession, she accused other women in the village of being witches. By May of 1692 governor William Phips established a special court to handle the trials of those accused of witchcraft. On June 2nd, Bridget Bishop was convicted of witchcraft and hanged eight days later. This was the beginning of the Salem Witch Trials.

If you travel to Salem, Massachusetts you can visit the Witchcraft Victim’s Memorial, take tours of the jail and visit several preserved structures in Danvers and Salem related to the trials. What you won’t find are monuments built to honor the brave men who had to hang and torture the women and men accused of witchcraft. This bothers me. They were husbands, fathers, sons and brothers. They did what they had to do to protect their way of life. They are part of history. Where are their statues?

This is a ridiculous argument, but not really. The officers of the court who arrested, questioned, prosecuted and executed the accused were acting under the legal authority granted to them by their government. They are no better or worse than the Confederate soldiers who participated in the attempted overthrow the United States government. Americans have no problem condemning the evil committed in the Massachusetts Bay, but have a much more complicated relationship with the evil committed in the name of the Confederacy.


On Friday, August 11th torch bearing mobs of white supremacists marched on Charlottesville, Virginia. The pictures taken that night are a visual representation of the kind of mob mentality, hysteria and hatred that fueled the atrocities committed in Salem, Massachusetts. Angry white men assembled at night with torches have historically been the recipe for castrations and hangings. This assembly ended the next day when one member of the lynch mob drove his car into a crowd of people injuring 19 and killing a 32-year-old woman.     

The tragic events in Charlottesville were 325 years and 573 miles removed from the Witch Trials in Salem, yet both American horror stories share roots in hatred and hysteria. The people behind the Salem Witch Trials and Charlottesville weaponized the fear and anxiety of their allies. Once a mob is formed and their inhabitations have been lowered it becomes that much easier for them to kill those dehumanized by their ideology.  

Charlottesville wasn’t about monuments. The removal of Confederate Monuments is to racism what not having dinner on the table is to domestic violence. Issues related to race often remain hidden under the surface; sometimes they just need a spark. Too often in America we confuse the absence of large racial outbursts as signs of transcending our racial past, but this is an illusion. We live in a country that continues to struggle with the legacy of white supremacy.

Dr. Eddie Glaude writes and talks extensively about the value gap in America. The value gap is the belief that white people matter more than the rest of us. His thesis is a retelling of American history and an examination into how this belief continues to shape our society. What we saw in Charlottesville was another attempt by white supremacists to reshuffle the socioeconomic order of our society through fear and intimidation.

The scapegoating of racial, religious and sexual minorities is a necessary recruitment tool for hate groups trying to grow their numbers. The images of torch wielding xenophobes and bigots are disheartening, but not nearly as disheartening as the social media posts of seemingly normal people who have tried to justify their actions. The soft bigotry at the core of their need to understand, justify and even sympathize is just as damaging to race relations as the people walking up and down American streets with Swastikas. 


America was able to preserve the history of the Salem Witch Trials without canonizing the villains who committed the evil acts. 99.99% of our society can’t name one person responsible for the hangings, stoning and torture that defined that dark period of American history, yet we all know what happened. If the statues stay we should at least be honest about the terror they represented for 22% of America’s population at the time of the Civil War.

Sex, Lies And Hate


This past Monday Pat Robertson offered his Christian Broadcast Network audience a conspiracy theory, as a legitimate response, to Fox News contributor Eric Bolling’s suspension from the network for allegedly sending unsolicited nude photos to at least three female coworkers. Robertson said:


If you wanted to destroy the Fox News, you really wanted to destroy them, what would you do? Well you would send some salacious material, ostensibly from one of their popular co-hosts or hosts and you’d send it out and then get it publicized and then you have some woman complain that she had gotten this salacious material from this particular co-host.



Sadly, there are Evangelicals who will accept Pat Robertson’s theory as fact. The ungodly union between the reactionary wing of the Evangelical movement and the conservative media has produced an analytical paralysis in the minds of those who only receive information from sources inside their bubble. This paralysis obscures rational thought and hinders dialogue. It’s easier to believe conservative media outlets are the victims of a sinister liberal plot than to address the misogyny and patriarchy that seem to be constitutive parts of their political and religious dogma.

Eric Bolling’s suspension comes a month after Charles Payne’s suspension pending the findings of his sexual harassment allegations. In April of this year Bill O'Reilly was fired from the network after it was revealed that he and 20th Century Fox had been settling sexual harassment cases since 2004.  In July of last year, the recently deceased, Roger Ailes was forced to resign as CEO of Fox News amid his sexual harassment scandal involving female employees at the network.

None of this history matters. A closed mind rarely sees patterns. These sexual allegations are not viewed as a sign of a toxic atmosphere. The “good guy” is a victim of an illegitimate media. This is the kind of thinking that allows people to look at videos of unarmed people shot by police and disconnect what they are seeing from any historical context.

The allegiance some Evangelicals have pledged to the conservative media is so strong that it ignores, tolerates​ and even defends sexual assault. The "Access Hollywood" audio of Donald Trump admitting to sexually assaulting women didn't faze this crowd. Bill Clinton’s 20-year-old consensual affair with Monica Lewinsky is more offensive to many of them than Donald Trump hanging around the dressing rooms of young women or his willingness to just, “Grab ’em by the p___y.”

There are religious and secular people who, foolishly, believe these Evangelicals can be reached with better arguments. These good folks are prisoners of their own hope and optimism. There is a hatred at the core of this kind of Christianity. Pat Robertson was talking to people who spent eight years believing every nonsensical story about FEMA camps, gun grabs, Sharia law and a host of other lies fed to them by the conservative media.

In America, our hatred is often hidden behind the Bible or wrapped in a flag. More than 80% of our fellow citizens identify with some denomination of Christianity, yet the rhetoric disseminated from Christian television, social media, too many pulpits and from our elected officials doesn't comport with the gospel of Jesus. Pointing this out is useless. There are Evangelicals who believe the media is fake news, science is a form of secular opinion and universities produce more snowflakes than data. This isn’t hypocrisy. It’s a pernicious worldview that can’t be penetrated with a better argument. The church and the truth are collateral damage. 






Lil Duval, Non Binary Genders, and Questions About Rape


Fact: there are transgendered people who live in a constant state of physical and sexual terror. In the last few years there’s been an increase in gang rapes, sexualized torture, and murders of transgendered women and men. Paradoxically, all of this violence is happening at a time when more and more people are fighting to affirm the rights of the LGBTQIA community. Much of the violence and fear transgendered people are experiencing is a last-ditch effort to push them back into the closet. This violence has no place in our society.

Last Friday, as a guest on “The Breakfast Club”, Lil Duval opened himself up to the full wrath of the LGBTQIA community and their allies when he said, “This might sound messed up, but I don’t care, she dying,”. His response was to a question about a hypothetical sexual encounter with a woman who turned out to be a transgendered man. By Saturday, people who’ve never heard his name had an opinion about him and his comedy. By Sunday, there were calls to boycott “The Breakfast Club” for giving him a platform.

Washington Post / The Breakfast Club / YouTube

This controversy is playing out on social media- that’s good and bad. Social media is a great snapshot of what people are thinking at any given moment, but the caustic environment found on many platforms make civil discussions almost impossible. There are hundreds of articles and blog posts attacking Lil Duval’s words, but what’s lacking is a serious dialogue about consent and what rights a man has in a sexual encounter of this nature.

Disclaimer: I’m not attempting to defend Lil Duval or his statements.  

Central to this discussion is the question of how much information about a potential sex partner is needed in order to give consent? If someone had a history of sexually transmitted diseases do you have the right to know? If someone is married or has a significant other do you have the right to know? If someone is addicted to alcohol or drugs would that have an effect on your decision to have sex with them? If someone was born the same gender as you do you have a right to know?

Our society has no problem identifying a sex crime when the victim is a woman or child, but what rights, if any, do men have when it comes to sexual disclosure of a partner with a non-binary gender identity? I know I’ll be accused of centering the rights of men, but it was a man’s answer to this question that started the conversation. It’s possible for a CIS gendered male to hold no animosity towards the LGBTQIA community, and be upset if they were deceived into a sexual relationship they didn’t consent to. I don’t know if this factored into Lil Duval’s answer, but we can’t be so shocked by his response that we ignore what prompted it. People have a right to choose their sexual partners. This isn’t a controversial position to hold. When women aren’t given a choice, it’s rape. Children can’t consent so it’s rape, and a man who isn’t given enough information to consent is raped.

With all of the work that’s been done to educate people about sexual assault it’s reasonable to expect adults to know what constitutes consent and what’s considered rape. Sex without consent is rape. It doesn’t matter what someone is wearing, what kind of reputation they have, or if you’ve had past sexual encounters with them. Every sex act should be consented to. This isn’t complicated; unless the sex act in question is between a man and a member of the transgender community.

Lil Duval’s comments were seen as crude, crass, and offensive by a large segment of our society, but they also resonated with many of his core supporters. Transgendered people are under attack. They face threats many of us don’t see or have to worry about. Their fight is as existentially important to them as any fight anyone faces. I won’t disconnect their terror from this conversation, but we can’t allow that terror to usurp another person’s right to choose.