A Squalid Affair

In 1675, a Swedish ancestor of mine named Catharina Bure, the wife of a prominent man who was feuding with Uppsala’s mayor, was convicted of witchcraft along with several of her friends; they were all sentenced to be burned at the stake. The court accepted the testimony of a woman who historians believe had been bribed by the mayor and some children who claimed that the alleged witches had transported them to Hell so that they – the witches – could be watched having sex with the devil.

Catharina was ultimately saved by a last-minute pardon from the king – thankfully for my family and me, since she and her husband had their children thereafter – but her friends had already been burned to death. It’s a well-known story in Sweden, I’m told, though not one of which the Swedes are particularly proud.

At around the same time, America had its Salem witch trials, of course. And it was only about a century ago when, in some places down south, a white woman could claim that she had been raped by a black man, point to one in a crowd and her neighbors would go looking for a rope. Even more recently, in the 1980s, innocent Americans were packed off to prison based on “recovered memories” – perjured, and later recanted, evidence for which the supposed victims had been extensively coached (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McMartin_preschool_trial).

Does any of this sound familiar?

Now, in the midst of the #metoo moment, according to the press and prominent Democrats, men should have their reputations – and possibly their careers – ruined by accusations made decades after the alleged facts with nothing but the testimony of one or more alleged victims as evidence. It’s not burning at the stake, admittedly, but it is attempted character assassination based on the flimsiest of evidence.


By debasing the Senate’s processes – in this case, by waiting until after the FBI’s investigations and the Senate’s hearings on Kavanaugh’s fitness – before passing along a wholly unsubstantiated accusation dredged up 36 years after the “fact”, and encouraging another woman to spend six days “clarifying” her equally unsubstantiated, admittedly drunken memories of an event that might have happened thirty-something years ago, then make another accusation solely on the basis of that clarified and encouraged memory – and by explicitly championing a guilty-until-proven-innocent standard of conduct to further their political goals, the Senate’s Democrats are doing serious damage to the sense of fair play on which our system depends.

If the Democrats succeed in applying this horrifying evidentiary standard, what qualified – and innocent – man will be willing to go before the bitterly divided Senate for confirmation? None who are in their right minds.

And it doesn’t help that other leaders of the blue team are showing open contempt for half the country (c.f., Joe Biden’s recent comment that Trump’s supporters are “the dregs of society” or, for that matter, the regular portrayal of conservative Americans as troglodytes in the media). The message is: we progressive elites despise you conservatives, consider you lowlifes per se and will employ any tactic, however unethical or hypocritical, to thwart your progress.

If the Democrats were looking to further divide the country, what would they do differently? Don’t these people know that they’re playing with fire, and using the Constitution as kindling?

Our democratic processes – and ultimately, our liberties – depend far more on civility and a sense of mutual restraint than they seem to realize.



M.H. Johnston

8 comments to A Squalid Affair

  • Anonymous  says:

    I agree with much of what you say. Were you unable to restrain yourself until Thursday before publishing this?

  • John Primm, MPM  says:

    Mark, what is the reaction of your liberal friends and associates? Do they cast you out into the darkness?

    • M Johnston  says:

      Well, some have unsubscribed!

  • Timothy Huban  says:

    Mark, quite honestly, I am saddened by the amount and level of hate in this country, most significantly by Democrats. I don’t understand the difference between someone denigrating, generalizing and being intolerant of a group of people who agree in any way with the policies of the current administration and someone who shows intolerance against a group of people of a certain race or religion….hating (being intolerant of) a group of people is bigotry. The amount and level of hypocrisy in the Democratic party would be laughable if it weren’t so dangerous to this country. Further, the way that Feinstein handled the letter she received back in July should certainly be something that everyone can agree was unconscionable for a US Senator!

  • Doug Mccaig  says:

    The proof of this is found with any honest parent or spouse. An uncorroborated and unsubstantiated 35 year old claim that we keep a loved one from the pinnacle of his or her career. Not one of your readers nor Kavanaugh critics knew anything about this non criminal non activity until less than 2 weeks ago. Any person, honest to himself, would side with the accused first until evidence or wrongdoing was proved. And, of course Diane Feinstein, Dick Durbin, your very own Richard Blumenthal, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Mazie Horono, and the rest of them have a bigger obligation to make sure claims against character are credible before they are introduced into discussion. They have failed. This is Tonya Harding attacking Nancy Kerrigan all over again. Too bad. As someone said today, if Trump were to appoint Hillary for the position, at least someone would finally investigate her.

  • Dennis Paine  says:

    If the Democrats were looking to further divide the country, what would they do differently? Don’t these people know that they’re playing with fire, and using the Constitution as kindling?

    Yes, Mark, some of them do.
    And your trenchant turn of phrase invokes a ten year old image:


  • Anonymous  says:

    I just finished writing an article about “Schools of Thought” in Ulster County, NY, in the early 1900s. One of the schools I wrote about was a huge Redemptorist Seminary where 1300 priests were graduated over about 75 years. When the site closed, its vast library was sold at auction. According to the auction house book expert, “There is also a slightly disturbing lot called ‘The Hammer of Witches’, dated 1620, valued at $1,000-$1,500. Essentially this was a ‘how-to’ book to identify witches, arguing that witches were mostly always women rather than men…”. I don’t know if there were Redemptorist sites in Sweden or if this book had multiple copies.

    People have always used the supernatural to explain bad events, or to shame, or to inculcate others in their beliefs. Magical thinking just morphs depending on educational system of the time.

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