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Monday, May 23, 2005

Witch crossing - Update 2

Sarah Vowell, in her excellent collection The Partly Cloudy Patriot has a hilarious essay "God Will Give You Blood to Drink in a Souvenir Shot Glass." She writes about her visits to the scenes of horrific events in history, including Salem, Mass., where 19 women were put to death for "witch craft." The actual reason for the killings remains much debated with theories ranging from hallucigens in the town's water supply to a fight over property rights. Any way, I don't mean to digress. Back to Sarah Vowell (who also is a Buffy fan and a lover of history particularly the macabre. Sure I'm happily married, but you know, I can carry a torch with the best of them -- the romantic kind, not the burn the witch at the stake kind -- yes, I have been drinking, why do you ask?) OK, back to Sarah Vowell again. She wrote:

"Salem boasts everything you would want from a trip down American memory lane, from information to anxious giggles. At the Witch Dungeon Museum, a place about as dignified as it sounds, there is the fun kind of bad actress in a period costume emoting through a reenactment of Elizabeth Proctor's witch trial, 'I am not a witch! I am innocent!' There's a colorful old guy walking-tour guid named Bob who must not be a member of the chamber of commerce because he says things like 'They hung dogs for being witches, that's how stupid these people were.' There are freaky talking mannequins in the Salem Witch Museum that recite the Lord's Prayer and while they do resemble shrunken apples they nevertheless help the visitor understand how hard it must have been for the condemned to say the line about forgiving those who trespass against us. snip "[Sarah Good] famously proclaimed to the reverend and I'm guessing the town 'You are a liar; I am no more a witch than you are a wizard, and if you take away my life, God will give you blood to drink.' Could she have any idea then that, three centuries later, bloodthirsty tourists would sip her life story form a souvenir shot glass? What would she think of the local ice cream parlor going by the name Dairy Witch Or that the high school football team is called the Salem Witches? Or that a cartoonish witch adorns the town's police cars and newspaper?"
So that leads me to this story "'Bewitched' statue bothers some in Salem" in today's Washington Post:
Executives at TV Land surely expected gracious applause when they announced plans for a bronze statue of Samantha Stephens in "Bewitched." And why not? Everyone loves the statue of Ralph Kramden in "The Honeymooners," which was commissioned by the rerun cable network and is now on display in midtown Manhattan. There were upbeat reviews for their homage to "The Andy Griffith Show," which enshrines Sheriff Andy Taylor and young son Opie and which you can see near the statehouse in North Carolina. But the plans for the salute to "Bewitched" didn't go over well. That's because TV Land decided the place for this nine-foot tribute to America's most beloved housewife witch is in the middle of Salem, Mass., a town best known for hanging 19 citizens accused of witchcraft. Okay, it happened a long time ago -- in 1692 to be exact -- but it's still a sore subject. Capitalizing on that history with a statue of a broom-riding TV witch struck some locals as in really bad taste. "It's like TV Land going to Auschwitz and proposing to erect a statue of Colonel Klink," says John Carr, a former member of the Salem Historic District Commission. "Putting this statue in the park near the church where this all happened, it trivializes the execution of 19 people."
OK, not only does John Carr violate Godwin's law, but does a town that has cartoonish symbols of witches on the Salem Police Department's cruisers and uniform patches really have a leg to stand on in calling a statue of the lovely Bewitched star Elizabeth Montgomery distasteful? The statue has already been cast. If the town doesn't want it, I volunteer to take it off TV Land's hands. Now that my wife has read this post, I must withdraw my offer to TVLand. My wife agrees with Salem officials. She thinks the statue would look cheesy on our yard. Curses! Foiled again! UPDATE 2 Karen Dresser-Smith takes my point of view in this letter published in the North Shore Sunday:
To the editor: I think it's sad how people take such a defiant stance on a issue that doesn't warrant a quarter column in the daily newspaper. All of this turmoil over a donated statue that people won't look twice at once it's been there a month amazes me, when a real issue was buried very quickly and didn't get the press it deserved. It seems to me that just a little over a year ago, not 30 yards from where the new proposed statue is to be erected, that a bench was removed like magic overnight. It also occurs to me that the bench disappeared - in front of the fountain - just about the time that the $400k-plus condos were being shown to prospective buyers. The homeless had been using it for years, that is, until the new owners realized that the homeless weren't exactly part of the view that they were selling. And just that quick, like waving a wand, the bench disappeared. If you believe it was anything but that, there's a museum around the corner offering tall tales and other folklore. Salem is the Witch City - will be forever and you can't change it - so get over it. Whether you like it or not, the destination is Salem for witches. Do you think that the Harry Potter convention is coming to our fair city because of the China trade? When I see the kids wearing colonial hats instead of witch hats, maybe I'll change my mind.
I didn't write anything about the bench or the Harry Potter trip or the condos or the kids and witch hats. But other than that, our views are nearly identical. So similar it is astounding It's like magic.


Blogger HP said...

Great post. As I read through this, I though of at least seven things I wanted to say, but they all sped by, and the post moved on of its own accord, and now at the end, there's nothing for me to do but cheer.

5/12/2005 12:54:00 AM  

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