By Jack Parkos | United States
The term “witch hunt” has been popular ever since the 1692 Salem Witch Trials. Through history, it often describes cases in which either the public or authorities ignore the principle of innocent until proven guilty. Most popularly, the allusion links the witch trials to the McCarthy-era politics of the American 1950s. When linking the two, most make a clear distinction that such mob mentality is severely detrimental and that society should never revert to such a thing again. However, it seems that it now is coming back into American politics.
The Modern American Witch Trials
What is the new witch hunt? Sexual assault allegations. Recently, Christine Ford, and now another woman, Deborah Ramirez, have accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault. Kavanaugh has denied both incidents and refuses to back down. Yet, many senators are still calling for him to withdraw before anyone finds him guilty. It seems very clear, thus, that those particular senators are not giving him a fair treatment. We simply do not know the facts of the case yet.
It is easy to observe that in specific crimes regarding sexual assault, different people hold drastically different standards for both the accuser and accused. A high-school civics course will teach the idea of innocent until proven guilty in the court of law. Yet, as the #MeToo movement continues, many are ignoring this critical principle. It is particularly interesting how many of his Democratic opponents are members of the party that overwhelmingly supports social justice, but at the same time, are now denying due process and equal treatment under the law.
Sexual assault, without a doubt, is a serious and deeply-running issue in American society today. Those who are guilty should not go without consequence. But, especially due to the gravity of the issue, they should first go through a fair and legal system.
All It Takes
Just a single accusation of sexual assault may cost someone his or her social life and reputation. Many employers will fire workers over as much. The claim could be completely false and without evidence, but this is inconsequential in an era of mob mentality. The similarities to Salem are horrifying. All it takes is one blasphemous claim to influence the life of an individual and the broader political realm.
Suppose that Ford had accused Kavanaugh of another crime, like theft. Most likely, the justice system would treat him more fairly than in the case of a sexual assault. In this case, innocent until proven guilty would maintain. Why is this not the case for sexual assault and misconduct cases?
Of course, sexual assault is considerably different from theft. It is more deeply personal and to many, more serious as well. However, this is not how the rule of law works. All individuals have the same due process rights, no matter the crime. Legally, the Bill of Rights guarantees this, and morally, it is simply wrong to assume guilt without evidence. Admittedly, the Kavanaugh case is beyond the statute of limitations, but the moral point still stands.
Innocent Until Proven Guilty
Society should apply this principle equally. If all people have this right in the legal system, why not in the court of public opinion? This essential idea should not falter based on a different setting.
The public does not know all of the facts of the case and has not seen all of the evidence yet. Thus, it is wrong to jump to conclusions in any way. We must not call “liar” to the accuser nor must we call “guilty” to the accused. Kavanaugh may be guilty, and Ford may be a liar. To assert either at this point in the game is incredibly unfair and illegitimate. Without the evidence, nobody can suggest so with any degree of certainty. Hence, both parties should receive the same treatment: innocent until proven guilty. Neither side should allow political, personal, or partisan goals to interfere with the virtue of American justice.
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