Scapegoating in America's historyI need to write an essay that discusses the following quote from Arthur Miller's "The Crucible:" "What lay behind the procedures of both witch trial and political...

Scapegoating in America's history

I need to write an essay that discusses the following quote from Arthur Miller's "The Crucible:"

"What lay behind the procedures of both witch trial and political hearing was a familiar American need to assert a recoverable innocence even if the only guarantee of such innocence lay in the displacement of guilt onto others."

This quote references the Salem Witch Trials and the McCarthy anti-Communist era.

I need examples and opinions about the topic which corresponds to this quote: scapegoating in the U.S.

I'm thinking of writing about the immigrant experiences of different minority groups in America (African-Americans, Jews, Irish, etc) and possibly about the scapegoating they faced. I will also mention the anti-Communist era and the Witch Trials. To keep in line with the quote, I need to discuss how exactly in the past (or present) Americans "asserted innocence" and placed guilt/blame/scapegoating on various groups -- this can be immigrants, suspected Communists, etc. I want to start there and expand. However, I need ideas! Any ideas/opinions/insights are appreciated.

Expert Answers
belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You mentioned discussing minority groups in America and how they are routinely blamed for ills when things go wrong. You can start right here, right now; once again, people are blaming the Jews for our financial troubles at home. The Jews own all the banks, the Jews have all the money, the Jews tell our media what to report... from there, it leads to blood libels, ghettos, and eventually expulsion and execution. This pattern has repeated all over the world, all throughout recorded history. We have never fully pursued it here in the U.S., but people are chanting the same slogans and repeating the same lies. History repeats unless we learn from our mistakes.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

For example, in the 1920s, American society was changing rapidly and doing so in some ways (flappers, etc) that some Americans were uncomfortable with.  So they had two choices.  They could find someone else to blame or they could admit that regular Americans were choosing to behave in these ways.  So the asserted the innocence of regular Americans and argued that it was immigrants who were causing the problems. They implemented Prohibition and immigration restriction as ways of showing this attitude.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
There is always another scapegoat. Throughout America, we always seem to have a group that we are ostracizing, that is the current target of our hate. I agree that Muslims are definitely the current target, and possibly the poor also. In the past it has been African Americans, Chinese immigrants, and pretty much every other immigrant population, and of course Native Americans.
frizzyperm | Student

9/11 is a perfect example of America asserting its innocence. There are lots of potential reasons why American activities provoked the attacks on 9/11, but none of these have been discussed, investigated or publicly aknowledged. Instead, it was simply called an attack on 'Freedom' and that was it. The attackers were labelled as 'Evil' and therefore America is 'Good' (and innocent).

If only it were that simple.


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