michigan teacher attacked for being a witch

We talk of the war between religious fundamentalism and science in relatively abstract terms. It’s always somewhat removed. It’s always parents in some far away southern state that are up in arms over their children learning that the earth, contrary to what Biblical literalists might claim, was formed over millions of years, or that, God forbid, humans and dinosaurs didn’t coexist like on the “Flintstones.” We don’t tend to see the problem as a Michigan problem, but it is. Religious fundamentalism, like it or not, is pushing its way north, into the heartland of America.

Just last month, a continuing education teacher in Ferndale was attacked by one of her 20 year old students. It would be horrible under any circumstances, but, in this instance, it was particularly disturbing. The teacher was attacked for being a “witch.”

The teacher – who claims not to be a witch – had been discussing Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible,” a play based on the 1692 Salem witch trials, when the student, who declared the work “blasphemy,” doused her with what he said was holy water, and attempted to set her on fire with a lighter. His goal, he said upon apprehension, was to “burn the witch.”

While witch burning certainly isn’t a widespread epidemic at this point, I do think it’s worth noting. With growing uncertainly about our economy, and the increasing sense of fear and suspicion we find ourselves navigating through, I don’t think it’s at all unrealistic to suspect that more and more people will gravitate toward the comforting certainty of fundamentalism. One hopes, however, that rational thought, in the end, will win out.

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10 Comments

  1. Brackache
    Posted October 10, 2008 at 12:32 am | Permalink

    That kid had to have been being a smart ass.

    You can’t light a person on fire with a lighter, and why did he just happen to have holy water on him at the time?

    Smart ass or schitzo. I doubt he was a fundamentalist.

  2. mark
    Posted October 10, 2008 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    My reading of it, and I could be wrong, is that it took place over a few days. So I think he brought water with him for the purpose of throwing on her after he approached her and asked her if she was a witch. And I suspect you’re right about the schitzo thing. My guess is that mental illness plays a part. I just believe, in this case, it’s very much tied to a trend we’re seeing in popular culture. I suspect, in the coming decade, we’ll see more people attacked as witches.

  3. Brackache
    Posted October 10, 2008 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    All the more reason everyone should carry a magic self-defense wand that expels lead balls from the sulfurous ether.

  4. Wil Church
    Posted October 10, 2008 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know, Mark, you are usually on point about these things, but this doesn’t look like religious intolerance at all. It looks like the work of a single deranged person. Religious intolerance exists in Michigan, no doubt. But this incident, even as lacking in details as you give, doesn’t carry the same motif. If a Wiccan was persecuted or forced out of her job, or a gay music teacher was driven to suicide by the complete hatred of his community, that would be in line with religious intolerance. Not some idiot with mental problems trying to immolate his teacher.

  5. Robert
    Posted October 10, 2008 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    Where you people place your lines separating the deranged from regular folks seems pretty undefined and arbitrary. I wonder if any of you could define it very well.

    I don’t choose to imagine such definite distinctions between people. If I did, I’d define them pretty regularly, openly and easily.

  6. Brackache
    Posted October 10, 2008 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    In this case, Robert, I draw the line at effective means. One kid wielding supposed holy water and a bic lighter are not effective means of combatting witchcraft, in my experience. Gasoline works way better.

    I realize you’re probably not thinking very clearly though, having been ensorcelled.

  7. Robert
    Posted October 11, 2008 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    So what makes a person deranged is in effectiveness?

    Don’t worry about me, Brackache. I have a magic bubble around me. My spells are the strongest. Haven’t you seen the ones I’ve put on ytown, nammaroo and publius. Presto! They’re gone. I’m putting a hex on designated republican as we speak.

  8. Robert
    Posted October 11, 2008 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    I meant to say “ineffectiveness” as one word of course. I guess it proves I’m at least a little sane because I can’t spell check effectively.

  9. mark
    Posted October 11, 2008 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    And, just to clarify, the student wasn’t a kid. It was a continuing education program and he was 20 years old.

  10. Brackache
    Posted October 11, 2008 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, see. A sane 20 year old should know that trying to set a person on fire with a lighter won’t work.

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