Miller And The Red Scare

Miller wrote the “Crucible” after witnessing many of his friends being interrogated by McCarthyism. Miller saw a connection between the Red Scare and the Salem Witch hunts (1692-3). Both Salem Witch hunts and the Red Scare created fear and mass hysteria. One explicit connection between Salem and the Red Scare is that condemning others would lead to a promise of clemency. This led to many false accusations. Methods used by both Salem and Red Scare trials to encourage citizens to betray each other.

The play was written on the heels of WWII. Miller was writing about the fear and intolerance he saw during the McCarthy trails. Miller was concerned with the dangers of mass hysteria. Miller himself was asked to name people by McCarthy. Miller refused and was charged with contempt and convicted. This was later quashed.

Since the election of President Trump, intolerance of people from different ethnic backgrounds has been a consistent problem. For example, Trump issued an executive order stopping refugees and travellers with passports from seven Muslim countries including Syria and Iran. The travel ban could be considered discriminatory as it denies people basic human rights to travel and immigrate because of their ethnicity and ‘otherness.’

In the play falsely accused people (e.g., Tituba being accused of witchcraft by Abigail) can be described as ‘others.’ Some Reasons could include Tituba’s ethnicity (African) and her occupation as a slave. In Trump’s presidency ‘othering’ is the process where non-white cultures are treated with disrespect and intolerance while pointing to differences in culture rather than similarities in beliefs and interests. Another example in the play, John proctor created the feeling of ‘Otherness’ between him and the rest od the town of Salem by standing up to the high court and not revealing any innocent people during his trials. The rest of the town of Salem created the feeling of ‘Otherness’ by acting on their individual desires specifically Abigail starting the trials to fulfil a personal grudge.

The US is refusing the very idea of a “global refugee crisis”. The Trump administration isn’t just ignoring to helping those people who would have been resettled under the Obama administration. It’s walking away from the idea that any country ought to take ethical guidance for refugees — and, indeed, it’s not at all clear that any other country will.

We will have to acknowledge that we treated these people as if they had done something erroneous – even “illegal” – though we always knew they had not. It will acknowledge that what we did a massive amount of torture. It will also acknowledge that, unlike the dishonour of the stolen generations of Indigenous children and others responsible for their care, we all knew this was going on, year after year, and chose to do nothing about it. We found it easier to disregard than to confront and, to that degree, we were all complicit.

When we talk about people seeking asylum, we tend to focus on the notorious offshore detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island, but that is just the tip of the iceberg of our national heartlessness. Why is there so little public debate about the treatment of people who are living in our community, awaiting approval of their refugee status? The ongoing destruction of government support portends those people with hardship.

The impact of the government’s heartlessness on the mental and emotional state of people seeking asylum can hardly be imagined. But that’s not the only impact. The longer this goes on, the more we ourselves are contracted by it. What does it say about us that we have become the kind of society that would inflict such unconscionably harsh conduct on blameless people who have simply pursued a better life in a safe society where, like so many before them, they are keen to make a contribution?    

07 July 2022
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