And if the Salem Witch Trials happened now
We’d hang Rebecca Nurse for her Witch Privilege
And all Giles Corey’s pleas for mercy would
Be met with mocking taunts of “ok boomer.”
Susannah Martin and John Proctor would
Decry the lack of innocence presumed
And say due process had been undermined
But every judge would shout all protests down
With “CONSEQUENCE” and “ACCOUNTABILITY”
And Abigail Williams would tell her story
In an HBO documentary.
And if the Reign of Terror happened now
We’d leave it to the Internet to judge
The fates of nobles and their families.
Marie Antoinette would never get a trial.
The Twitter sound and fury would be more
Than enough to rush her to the scaffold steps.
Her livestreamed execution would break YouTube.
Her head would sit atop the Eiffel Tower
And pose in selfies with Millennial tourists
And Robespierre would win the Pulitzer Prize
For his tell-all, Catch and Kill.
And if McCarthyism happened now
We’d name and shame our socialist ex-partners
And friends in epic social-media rants
Accompanied by the hashtag #CommieToo.
Blacklisted screenwriters and actors all
Would cry and moan into an empty void
Only to hear, “This isn’t cancellation;
You’re only being criticized. Shut up!”
While they collected unemployment peanuts
And Elia Kazan would grace the covers of Time
And Vanity Fair for his “courage.”
And if the Satanic Panic happened now
We’d scream “Believe the Children” twice as loud
And anyone demanding evidence
In the McMartin and Little Rascals trials
Would be “on the Wrong Side of History.”
A hundred famous goth and metal bands
Would sign an open letter in Rolling Stone
Begging for freedom of speech and free expression
But everyone would scoff and call them whiners
And Tipper Gore would be immortalized
In a Netflix hagiography.
Good thing humanity has reached its apex
And these events could never happen now.
Jeff Cottrill is a fiction writer, journalist, and spoken-word artist based in Toronto, with a style that mixes poetry, storytelling and comedy. He has headlined in countless literary series across Canada, the U.K. and the U.S. for the past twenty years and recently finished his seventh or eighth attempt at a first novel.
Cover image: Photo by Nicoletta Lofoco.