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Such Men are Dangerous: The Fanatics of 1692 and 2004 Hardcover – 1 Jan 2010
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This well-researched book by a respected historian has managed to stand out among the many political books released in 2004, and unlike many of them, remains current for the foreseeable future. Most Americans would like to think that our modern-day leaders are more enlightened than the witch-hunting Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. But are they? Is it possible that people like Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, and even George W. Bush are just the modern-day equivalents of Cotton Mather, John Hathorne, and William Phips?Frances Hill finds a frightening resemblance, and hopes that by remembering the past we can avoid repeating it. The events are, of course, very different. The Puritans twisted a popular fear of imaginary 'spectral' forces to bolster their ideological agendas, power and wealth. Today's neo-conservatives are twisting the very real public fear of terrorism for those same ends. We know how the story of the witch hunts ends. The modern equivalent is still under way, with far more chilling ramifications for the future of humanity.
About the Author
Frances Hill is the author of several books, including three on the Salem witch trials-A Delusion of Satan, The Full Story of the Salem Witch Trials; The Salem Witch Trials Reader; and Hunting For Witches, A Visitor's Guide To The Salem Witch Trials. She resides in London, but spends summers in the U.S., based on Connecticut.
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Massachusetts of the 1690s was a very rigid sort of place. Those in power were ideologues who believed that their version of Calvinism was the only way and the only truth. Everyone who came to Massachusetts was required by law to attend Puritan services. Belonging to any other church was forbidden, on pain of banishment or hanging. All dissent was equated to bonding with the devil. The Puritans believed you were "either with us or against us." Since Massachusetts thought itself a place where anyone could find work, poverty was considered a sign of general immorality and probable damnation.
America in 2004 is a place where those on the bottom are blamed instead of helped. Prisons are full of victims of poverty, and each year scores of Americans are legally executed. It stems from a point of view of self-seeking masquerading as righteousness, without regard for social justice. Selfishness is a virtue. Those who can't make it economically are wicked and contemptible. Today's leaders are as inhumane and self-righteous as those of 300 years ago.
Paul Wolfowitz and Minister Cotton Mather tried to emulate their famous fathers. They both also see only what they want to see, and are slippery and self-serving in argument. Deputy Governor William Stoughton and Donald Rumsfeld both hold rigid ideological views, lack humanity and mercy, and are war mongers and hypocrites. Stoughton and Dick Cheney are willing to bend their view of the world to accommodate their pursuit of wealth and power. Magistrate John Hathorne and Richard perle were not part of their respective elites, but they were the first to push their respective agendas. Governor William Phips and George Bush were intellectually lacking, but they did have a talent for forming alliances and cultivating people. They also had very foul mouths and furious tempers, and owed everything to family connections.
It's disheartening to know that Americans have evolved so little in 300 years. This is quite an eye-opener of a book. An interest in Massachusetts of the 1690s would be a big help, but this is still fascinating and thought-provoking. Highly recommended.
While her arguments may be weakened by the imbalance in treating the Salem witch trials in great detail and the war in Iraq, for instance, in under a few pages, the reader is left to wonder if there isn't some truth to Hill's assessment. A fanatical religious ideologue, Cotton Mather suffered from paranoia and an exaggerated sense of self. He strove his entire life to meet his father's expectations. In doing so, he went to great lengths, often persecuting others, to prove his own worthiness. Similarly, George W. Bush suffers from trying to please his father even now. The fact that he hates reading makes it all the stranger that, after learning about the attacks on the World Trade Center, Bush followed through with his reading aloud to a grade school class in Florida. The ridiculousness of his actions is underscored by his inability to think under pressure.
Hill's book shows her solid understanding of the subject matter. She would have made a stronger case if she had concentrated on the Bush Administration alone and had referred to 1692 occasionally. The reader is left dissatisfied in the end and wonders, along with the author, about what will happen next. It is, however, a great read for history buffs and politically concerned citizens of the world. I look forward to Frances Hill's next book.
Christine Louise Hohlbaum, American author of Diary of a Mother (2003), SAHM I Am (2005), and "American Housewife Abroad" at AnotherChapter.com, is a freelance writer living near Munich, Germany, with her husband and two children. Visit her Web site at: [...]
The problem is, that comparison has already been made, famously, by Mark Pendergrast, in his landmark book "Victims of Memory," which is published by the very same small press, Upper Access Books. In fact, Pendergrast is is quoted on the cover of "Such Men" with glowing praise for Hill's scholarship and insights.
Both of these authors have found frightening reminders of the witch craze in modern life, and both have expressed admiration for each other's work. The fact that they didn't both write the same exact book has to do with scholarship, not "political correctness."