Despite the lashings of almost all the press and the mullahs of the religious right, the people seem largely to have withheld their righteous anger.This did not happen in Salem, where the members of the clergy, who were also the leaders of the community, were strangers to mercy and indeed to common sense, and helped drive the public into a lethal panic.There is, I think, a parallel in the sexual element underlying each phenomenon.
There are some similarities and some important differences.
The tone of iron vituperation and the gut-shuddering hatred are reminiscent of the fury of the Salem ministers roaring down on the Devil as though they would grind their heels into his face.
Though there were never any witches while there certainly is a Bill Clinton, the underlying emotions are not all that different -- the evident wish is to end the Evil One's very existence.
In both cases there is a kind of sublime relief in the unearthing of the culprit's hidden crimes.
The Salem church, which effectively controlled the village, had been so fractious that minister after minister had fled the pulpit or been dismissed.
But with the discovery of Satan in town, the people understood in a flash what the source of their troubles had been, and a new era of social peace opened before them -- provided they could root out the diabolically corrupt.
Suddenly paranoia ruled and all were suspect and no one was safe. Rarely does just about every newspaper and television commentator agree so thoroughly.
Be it The New York Times, The Washington Post, or the television and print tabloids whose normal business is reporting news of the gutter, media outlets all became highly moral in a single stroke, as though an electric charge had passed through iron filings, instantly pointing them all in the same direction.
Not often does one sinner raise so many so quickly out of their moral slumber.
But what is strange and interesting is how the public, that great stallion that is so often led to water, this time dipped its head but refused to drink, perhaps scenting the stale smell of political manipulation.
It may also be that with so many American marriages ending in divorce, and most of those surely involving a mate in the wrong bed, an unspoken self-identification with this kind of marital misery has restrained people from losing all sympathy for their leader, disappointed as they might be in his behavior.