America, the Land of the "Free" and South Africa, the Home of the "Witches"

Oregon Protest Image

Protests are usually quite controversial, especially when the people directly affected by the situation do not agree with how protesters are handling the problem. In Jack Healy and Kirk Johnson's New York Times article published on Monday, “A Quieter Push to Get Control of U.S. Lands,” this is clearly demonstrated by land activists who have taken over a federal building at the  Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Harney County, Oregon. The activists leading the protest do not even originate Oregon themselves; in fact, they are from Nevada which adds to the controversy. These men are being called modern-day “Robin Hoods”, as they are swooping in to help the rural ranchers in Eastern Oregon. Greg Walden, the Republican representative for the area this protest is taking place in, has disagreed with the tactics being used by the armed activists in front of Congress, yet he does understand their frustrations about the current management of the federally owned lands in the West. While the FBI are working with state and local police and governments on this, there has been no attempt by police yet to block these men in; several have been traveling in and out of the area they have taken over. The activists even recently cut a hole in a fence that separated public and private lands in order for ranchers to graze their cattle on the land. Fighting for the 47% of land in the West owned by the federal government to be given back to the states, these activists are holding strongly to the words of Utah’s Republican representative, Ken Ivory: “this land is your land and not the federal government’s.”

Norman Catherine %22Witch Hunt%22

What comes to mind when you hear the word “witch?” For me, several images come to mind: several photographs of me in my childhood Halloween costumes in which I am in a scraggly dress and pointy hat; an old, mysterious woman who lives in solitude in a cabin in the woods; an angry, defiant, powerful, or strong woman who people cannot handle so they resort to nasty name-calling. These Western images are quite different from South African ideas around witches and witchcraft. For these people, witch craft is a very real thing that has a powerful, menacing presence in the occurrences of their everyday lives. Many young people are especially opinionated about the presence of witchcraft within their communities and there are countless stories of them having “visited villages and offered to exterminate witches” (Segall 175). In their minds, these so-called witches “were blocking ‘political freedom’ and democratic development” and that by killing them, they were going “to eradicate ‘elements of tradition and superstition'" (175). With this mindset of finding almost anything as proof of witchcraft, many innocent women who were mothers, grandmothers, sisters, and daughters have had their lives ruthlessly taken away by these young men. They are merely using these "witches" as scapegoats for all the adversities and atrocities they have to face in their lives, with no respect for the lives they are taking away or the families they are turning into “social outcasts in a region where superstition still reigns supreme" (175).

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