History It Happened Once

I Googled the Salem Witch Trials so you don’t have to – and they are hella confusing

As a part of our Halloween series this year, since we’ll be mentioning witches a lot, let’s talk about the Salem Witch Trials and how the events that took place do not make any sense.

Honestly, after reading a bunch about the “trials,” I still do not really understand what happened or why it happened. Suggestions about fungus causing illnesses and other analyses on political issues within Salem at the time are speculations that are often used to try to explain the trials. But, you have to admit that there are a bunch of missing pieces in the story. The whole thing sounds like complete chaos to me!

I have so many questions. Like, why did they randomly believe the claims of young girls without any true evidence? Who really thought that allowing spectral evidence was a good idea? How were the accused supposed to prove to a court that they were not actually witches? And lastly, what were the true reasons and motivations behind this tragedy?

So let me explain what all went down in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692 and 1693.  It all began when the daughter and niece of Reverend Samuel Parris, the minister of Salem Village, began having violent fits, intense contortions, and uncontrollable outbursts such as screaming. After a local doctor in Salem could not find anything physically wrong with 9-year-old Elizabeth Parris an 11-year-old Abigail Williams, he diagnosed them and other young girls within the community that showed similar behaviors and symptoms with bewitchment. This first diagnosis of witchcraft led to the imprisonment of over 200 people and 20 hangings throughout Massachusetts.

Puritan pioneers first settled in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630. During this time, the Puritan communities established their own theocratic government systems. Theocracy is a form of government largely led and structured by those who believed to be divinely guided. The government and legal system are structured based on religious law.

You still with me?

The Puritans believed that the Devil could give individuals on Earth powers in return for their loyalty. (and that isn’t even the most ridiculous claim) Those who received powers from the Devil were called witches. The principle of witchcraft became prevalent in 14th century Europe, where between the 1300s and 1600s, thousands of people, the majority being women, were executed for accusations of witchcraft. Under the legal structure in Salem, an individual who consorted with the Devil was considered a criminal. The punishment for committing such a crime was hanging, yikes!

During the time of the Salem Witch Trials, the community was stressed and struggling. The King William’s War put a strain on the community’s resources. Additionally, there was a rivalry between wealthy families and the working class that depended on forms of agriculture. There was also an on-going smallpox epidemic and fear of attack from neighboring Native Americans. The stressful and anxiety-fueled climate of the community led to ongoing tensions and suspicions among the Puritan villagers.

After the diagnosis of bewitchment, a few of the “bewitched” young girls blamed three women for bewitching them. The first is Tituba, an enslaved woman from the Caribbean bought by the Reverend Parris. The second woman was Sarah Good, a homeless beggar.  And lastly, an impoverished elderly woman named Sarah Osborne. Of course, all three of the accused women were considered “outsiders” based on race and/or class. (Is anyone shocked?)

It remains unclear if the girls were persuaded or forced to accuse these three women. However, I think that the social statuses and positions of the women in society should be considered when trying to interpret the potential reasons that these three women in particular were actually accused of the crime of witchcraft.

This is where the whole thing launched full speed into a downward spiral to me. The imprisonment of the three women led to further paranoia in a society that already suffered from numerous stresses. Good and Osborne claimed that they were not guilty; while Tituba confessed and named other witches who were working along with her against the Puritans to receive repentance. In response to Tituba claiming other individuals were also practicing witchcraft, the governor of Massachusetts ordered the establishment of the Court of Oyer and Terminer to pass judgment on witchcraft cases.

The accusations of witchcraft continued to spread across the Massachusetts colonies against mostly women and a few men (which I did not know). Similarly to Tituba, those accused confessed and named others who practiced witchcraft. The court allowed testimony based on spectral evidence. This refers to evidence that is based on visions, dreams, and a person’s spirit. The testimony was based on witnesses claiming that they interacted with or saw a person’s spirit, in place of basing testimony on a person’s physical actions. The trails lacked focus on truth and investigation. Under religious practices, the courts preferred that the accused confessed, asked for forgiveness, and vowed to not engage with the Devil again.

After years and the (unlawful) deaths and imprisonment of so many people, the Court of Oyer and Terminer was finally replaced with the Superior Court of Judicature, the testimony of spectral evidence was no longer allowed, and the trials were deemed unlawful. In 1697, the General Court ordered a day of fasting and soul-searching due to the events that had occurred during the trials. Additionally, in 1711, the families affected received reinstitution and the restoration of the names. However, it was not until the 1950s that Massachusetts formally apologized for the event.

The whole story is definitely a lot to digest, but it did give me a lot to think about.

While many aspects of the Salem Witch Trails are perplexing, within this tragedy remains lessons that should be reflected on and questioned today. It remains crucial to have objectivity, to think about the consequences of unjustly punishing individuals, to be cautious of the use of fear within the justice system, and to foresee the damages of groupthink going unquestioned.

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It doesn’t feel right to celebrate Thanksgiving anymore

Thanksgiving, before my parents separated, was a major holiday in my household. I enjoyed it, as I loved the food. But Thanksgiving isn’t a holiday that feels right to celebrate anymore.

The Thanksgiving “story” that my school told us was not particularly unique. Native Americans and Pilgrims came together on Thanksgiving and had a feast. They became friends. That was it.

One of my friends invited me to come with her to an anti-colonial Thanksgiving dinner. The term “anti-colonial Thanksgiving” is not something I had heard of before. My Ashkenazi and Calvinist family was never affected by colonialism.

My friend, who I will call Dana, that I went with is Palestinian. Dana’s dad and grandparents had to leave when the Israeli government seized their land. Dana has very much been affected by colonialism.

Most of the people at that dinner were members of a Palestinian human rights group at my school. Like with the Thanksgiving meals I had growing up, we had good food. What was different were the conversations at this anti-colonial Thanksgiving.

Many of the speeches discussed colonialism and its continued impact. Many struggles that Palestinians and Native Americans face are similar. The support of Native Americans is necessary if you take part in Palestinian solidarity. Both are supporting the rights of indigenous peoples.

Later that night, Dana and I walked back to our dorm. I can’t remember what we were talking about. Instead, I remember what I was thinking about. I wondered what I could do as an individual to confront colonialism. I still wonder about this now. My first step was confronting the false history that I was taught when I was younger.

I was taught a white-washed, imperialist version of Thanksgiving. One that erased the brutality that Native Americans faced and continue to face at the hands of white settlers. One that also erased the fact that these white settlers stole land from Native Americans.

I grew up in Massachusetts, which is where Plymouth Plantation is located. Plymouth Plantation is considered to be the second successful settlement. But successful according to whom? It could be considered a successful settlement for people of European descent. I doubt Native Americans share the same sentiments.

I also started to think of the arguments people would give to defend Thanksgiving. It’s a good time to give thanks and that the United States was first colonialized centuries ago.

Well, I now have planned-out rebuttals for anyone who makes either of these arguments.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to give thanks to people in your life. Giving thanks should not come at the expense of erasing the pain that Native Americans faced and continue to face. A person can give thanks to people every day. They could give thanks by donating to or volunteering for charities that support Native Americans.

For people who complain that this happened centuries ago so we should not care: I ask them to look at any religions that they follow or practice. Catholics mourn the death of Jesus Christ every year. Christ died over 2,000 years ago. Jews mourn the brutality that their ancestors faced and their freedom. This was over 2,000 years ago, and I honor them every Passover.

Why do we celebrate the colonialization of Native Americans instead of mourning it?

Anti-colonial Thanksgivings are only a step in recognizing the pain that Native Americans continue to face, but it’s still a step. Settlers like myself need to recognize our continued participation in colonialism. If you are comfortable and able to, try to have a conversation about this at your own Thanksgiving tables this year. Acknowledging our history is maybe the best way to appreciate the U.S. and make it a better place.

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Trans rights will be at risk in Massachusetts if this law is repealed

Massachusetts has become an unlikely battleground for the future of trans rights. No, this traditionally blue state is not leading the way for increased protections for trans and gender nonconforming people. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Massachusetts voters will either vote to keep or repeal a law designed to protect trans people from discrimination in public spaces on Election Day 2018.

The law in question is Senate Bill 2407  is also known as Freedom Massachusetts. The law itself is quite new in the scheme of things, with Governor Charlie Baker having signed it into law in July 2016. Shocking, I know, a Republican governor seemingly supporting human rights, but stranger things have happened. Freedom Massachusetts is straightforward in its purpose: The law protects trans people in public spaces, such as in bathrooms, schools, restaurants, and hospitals.

If this sounds ridiculous to you, that makes sense. This is ridiculous. We should try and to protect marginalized populations, not get rid of protections that are already in place. Because everything sucks in 2018, Massachusetts voters are able to get rid of this trans public accommodations bill.

At a federal level, trans people have been put increasingly under attack by the Trump administration. In late October, it was reported that the Trump administration is considering narrowing the definition of gender to only reflect the biological sex that a person is assigned at birth. If the Trump administration won’t stand up for people who are discriminated against, then states need to step up with enacting state-level protections. This is why it is crucial that Massachusetts voters vote ‘Yes’ on Massachusetts Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Veto Referendum.

At  the surface level, it seems that Massachusetts Question 3 will allow Freedom Massachusetts to continue to exist. Ballotpedia lists that hundreds of Massachusetts based companies and associations support the existence of this law, and so does incumbent Baker. On the  ‘No’ side, there is only one association that supports this transphobic law, the Massachusetts Family Institute, which, unsurprisingly, also has tried to attack Planned Parenthood. If the 2016 Presidential Election taught us anything, simply supporting Freedom Massachusetts is not enough. Massachusetts voters need to go out and cast their ballot in order to work to keep trans people safe in the state of Massachusetts.

As a Massachusetts voter, I am concerned about the safety of trans people. Question 3 on the Massachusetts ballot is the only reason why I am voting absentee in Massachusetts, despite currently living in New York. I went to public schools in Massachusetts, and I saw how my trans friends were discriminated against. At my high school, trans students were forced to use single-stall bathrooms in the nurse’s office. They were not allowed to use the other bathrooms that were in other parts of the school.  I don’t know how to view this as anything but discrimination. My high school did allow trans students to use other bathrooms my senior year, but this was only a few months before Freedom Massachusetts was signed into law. If Freedom Massachusetts is repealed, I see nothing from stopping my high school and other public spaces to go back to how they were.

If you are a Massachusetts voter and care about protecting trans people during this horrifying Trump administration, vote ‘Yes’ on Question 3.

Gender Inequality

Thanks for the long-overdue pay raise, Massachusetts

Here are The Tempest, we’ve frequently railed against wage inequality and the gender pay gap. But here’s a bit of good news from Massachusetts: earlier this month, the state signed into law the Act to Establish Pay Equity. It hopes to attack the wage gap from a number of angles, but the overall goal of the new law is to insure that all employees earn an equal amount for working at the same level, regardless of gender.

One of the most revolutionary parts of the law prohibits employers from asking how much potential employees made at their past job. This may not seem significant, but many recent graduates and entry-level workers are content to accept a low starting salary, particularly in this economy. “I’ll make it up later,” they think — but for women this can far too often be the start of a career-long inequality in salary. If their next employer asks how much they made at their previous job and they give a figure that is lower than what the prospective employer planned to pay, it could lower the rate their new employer will pay them.

The law, which passed unanimously, also defines legitimate reasons for differences in pay for two employees who do the same job. Education, experience and seniority were some of the factors that may justify paying one worker more than another. Sales performance may also be a relevant factor in some jobs. But a key change in the definition of seniority also allowed that when employers are determining seniority, women cannot be penalized for the time they take off for maternity leaves, medical leaves, or family-related leaves.

The new law also aims to improve transparency and accountability both for businesses and for employees. It is technically illegal to prevent employees from talking about salary if they choose to do so, but the Massachusetts law reinforces this standard, encouraging employees to compare salaries and make sure employers are paying them fairly.

Although this seems like it may be a disadvantage to some businesses, there are also advantages for them. Because the law more clearly defines the differences that would allow employers to pay employees different salaries, it allows companies to defend themselves from lawsuits by proving that they were looking to change their payment practices.

According to Mother Jones, the current wage gap in Massachusetts is such that white women only earn 82 percent of what men typically earn. The law allows for an adjustment period of almost two years, and will come into effect on July 1, 2018.

Passing this law puts Massachusetts on a list with other states such as California, New York and Maryland that have also passed pay-equity laws. At a national level similar legislation was proposed in 2012, but was blocked by Republicans. In the absence of national progress, it seems that states have taken it upon themselves to pass laws that provide for greater equality.

Massachusetts was at the forefront of this type of employment law, pass the first one in 1945. Still, the law that was just passed had been proposed for the first time in 1998, proving that there was quite a delay between the proposal and the passing of the bill.

Hopefully this law will be effective in achieving pay equality between the genders. But don’t be fooled into thinking this is a cure-all. As The Atlantic points out, wage differences are governed by a number of complex factors, and may not be caused entirely by employers.

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RNC Drama, Twitter Bullies and Baton Rouge: The Week in Review

We get it, Wednesday’s can be tough to get through. In an effort to keep up with the world’s ever-changing news landscape, we’ve put together the top 10 headlines from the week so you can stay on top of things.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. The Republican National convention begins


On Monday, July 18th, the Republican National Convention kicked off in Cleveland, Ohio to formally announce Donald Trump as the Republican nominee. A few hours in, social media was alight with criticism as plagiarism allegations surfaced in response to Melania Trump’s introductory speech.

The convention is said to amass crowds of 50,000+ people.

2. Shooting in Baton Rouge

 Raw Story
Raw Story

A gunman, identified as Gavin Eugene Long, killed three police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He was shot dead shortly after by a SWAT team.

Long is a former marine and allegedly suffered from PTSD. Hours before he was shot, Long released a handwritten “manifesto” calling the shooting a “necessary evil.” In a video posted on social media, he states: “Zero [revolutions] have been successful through simply protesting. It has never been successful and it never will.”

Despite claims that the Black Lives Matter movement was behind this, Long described himself as an “alpha male” and made it clear his actions were his alone.

3. Attacks in Nice on Bastille Day

Love this pic
Love This Pic

What started as a day of celebration in Nice, France turned into a day of mourning after a lorry driver plowed into a large crowd, killing 84. Ten of the victims were children; over 300 were hospitalized. The driver was identified as Franco-Tunisian Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, age 31.

France extended its state of emergency for another six months following the attack. This marks the third major terrorist attack in France within the span of 18 months.

4. Attempted coup in Turkey

 Huffington Post
Huffington Post

A faction of the Turkish military attempted to carry out a coup in Ankara. As it was happening, people took to social media to try to figure out the chain of events.

Nearly 10,000 people have been detained and 600 schools closed as part of counter-measures by President Erdogan to shut down opposition. He has since declared a state of emergency for three months following the coup attempt.

5. Mike Pence is announced as Donald Trump’s running mate


Mike Pence, Governor of Indiana, was announced via social media as Donald Trump’s pick for VP. When their joint logo was released, pretty much everyone had an opinion about it.

6. Emmy nominations are released


Nominated TV shows include the hugely popular Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey, House of Cards, and Mr. Robot. The awards show is set to take place in September.

7. Twitter permanently suspends Milo Yiannopoulos


Milo Yiannopoulos facilitated the bullying of Leslie Jones, Ghostbusters actress, after posting his review of the movie and getting his followers to flood the actress with a barrage of hate. In response, Jones tweeted: “I feel like I’m in a personal hell. I didn’t do anything to deserve this. It’s just too much. It shouldn’t be like this. So hurt right now.”

Yiannopoulos is dubbed by the New York Times as “one of the most egregious and consistent offenders of [Twitter’s] terms of service.”

Milo Yiannopoulos isn’t the first celebrity to wreak havoc and get suspended on Twitter. Earlier this year, Azaelia Banks incited the wrath of thousands of users when she started a racially and culturally insensitive tirade against Zayn Malik.

8. Massachusetts Attorney General begins crackdown on assault weapons

Maura Healey, Massachusetts Attorney General, is trying to ban assault rifles in her state. Her goal is to change the parameters of what’s deemed “compliant” with state gun laws. She claims manufacturers have deemed certain weapons as complaint when they really shouldn’t be.

“The gun industry does not get to decide what’s compliant, we do,” she said.

9. Gary Marshall passes away


Gary Marshall passed away Tuesday, July 19th after complications from pneumonia. Those who grew up on iconic sitcoms like “Happy Days,” “Laverne and Shirley,” and “Mork and Mindy” from the 70’s remember him fondly, while younger generations know him best for major motion pictures “The Princess Diaries” and “Pretty Woman.”

Several celebrities expressed their condolences for the Hollywood icon, including Anne Hathaway, who described him as “goodness itself.” He was 81.

10. Pokémon Go generates $35 million

JS Online/a>
JS Online/a>

According to estimates from mobile app intelligence sources, Pokémon Go has already generated $35 million in revenue and has been downloaded over 30 million times. It’s currently the most downloaded app in mobile gaming history. Nintendo is benefiting big time: their stock is up by a staggering 120%.

The game’s success taken taken almost everyone by surprise. Besides using it for the sake of gaming, people are now using Pokéstops to carry out crime and even find dead bodies.

You can always get news straight to your inbox here.


Love Life Stories

This is why they say home is where the heart is

When I started college, my new school was so close to home that I didn’t even change malls, but I was still nervous about moving away from the town where I had spent 12 years. My grandmother lived in Wellesley, where I was attending school, and my mom grew up there. While excited to learn about their town, I also worried that it wouldn’t feel like home to me.

My parents, nervous that I would lean too much on my hometown, challenged me to not come home until Thanksgiving break. Adjusting at first was strange, because I had no friends to lean on and no knowledge of the campus. But I found new friends, and learned the campus and before I knew it Thanksgiving had arrived and I hadn’t returned to my hometown. Once I got to know the place and people, I really had very little reason to return to my hometown other than for holidays.

Fast forward a year, to Thanksgiving of my sophomore year. It was a unique pain to go home for the weekend only to leave again after such a brief time. But as I drove back on to campus and lugged my suitcases out of the car, I had the strange feeling I was both leaving home and coming back home. In other words, home was a feeling of being included, and the knowledge of a place.

[bctt tweet=” I had the strange feeling I was both leaving home and coming back home.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Shortly after that, something else challenged my idea of home: my parents decided to sell our house. Until the very end of the process – the summer after my junior year – there were uncertainties: where would we go afterwards? I knew by that point that college felt like home to me. But it was still strange to think that I would never again be in my childhood home, or just ten minutes away from my friends. Here, home was convenience and memories.

When we moved it was an odd experience (or maybe such experiences are always odd) because we relocated across the street from where my aunt had her second home. I grew up spending summer weekends there, and I recognized the neighborhood from the days when my brother and I would ride our scooters around. I also recognized the places where my cousins had worked in the summer. Getting used to the town was easy, but I felt isolated. Here, I had the memories and the knowledge of the place that made it feel like home, but not the social inclusion.

The three towns I lived in were all relatively similar, suburban Massachusetts towns, so there was no cultural adjustment while moving. My first experience craving home in a cultural sense came when I studied abroad in Europe. It was strange, that as a junior this was the first time that I had completely switched cultures and languages (despite all the switching of residences), and the first time that I had been away from my family for an entire four months. I found myself missing all three of my Massachusetts towns, proof that, despite complaints with each of them, they all had a bit of an emotional pull on me.

[bctt tweet=”This was the first time that I had completely switched cultures and languages despite all the switching of residences.” username=”wearethetempest”]

When I began studying abroad, I had neither the familiarity with place, nor the social connections, nor the memories to make this strange European city feel like home. The good thing is these things can be built with time. By the end of those four months, I knew my way around the small city, had special memories with friends, and a host family that cared for me as one of their own. In the end it felt like home, proving that sometimes home knowing a place, feeling that you belong, and crafting memories that make a place truly personal.

[bctt tweet=”Sometimes home is built of spacial knowledge, a sense of belonging, and memories that make a place truly personal” username=”wearethetempest”]