Witch Hunt

Lately, I’ve had several vivid dreams, though I only remember snatches when I wake. The other night I dreamed I was standing in the dark, looking at flames. I felt … odd. I woke at that point, but the dream stayed with me as I stepped into the bathroom. I realized what I felt was a mixture of things, a contradiction—power and fear? joy and despair? Not until the next morning did the location of this dream scene flash before me.

They say there are strangers who threaten us,

In our theaters and bookstore shelves,

That those who know what’s best for us

Must rise and save us from ourselves.

from “Witch Hunt” — Lyric by Neil Peart

This was a scene from my past. A memory of the night I stood in the parking lot of Windsor Village Baptist Church and participated in a book burning. This was the mid-70s, the era of The Exorcist, and my church was in the midst of Satan-mania.

Whenever this memory surfaces, I try to remember what books I burned, though I’m sure I’ll never have the complete list. I had little money to buy books, and probably owned no more than twenty—mostly paperbacks and used library books. Ironically, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 was one of the books I burned.

Other fiction thrown on the pyre was Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, and Jacqueline Suzanne’s Valley of the Dolls. But even non-fiction like Jess Stearns’ The Search for the Girl with the Blue Eyes or Marian L. Starkey’s The Devil in Massachusetts or—unbelievably—Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings did not escape my zeal. Nor did Khalil Gibran’s poetic The Prophet. I ruthlessly routed out their potential “demonic influence.”

I was a different person then. I was one of those the Rush song refers to, thinking I knew what was best, I became one of those strangers—to myself. The memory of that frightens me. The thought I might again be so easily influenced, frightens me even more.

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32 thoughts on “Witch Hunt

  1. ‘I was a different person then.’

    That, I believe, is one of the biggest understatements I’ve seen in a long time. I would think your journey has given you much food for thought and writing.

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  2. Book burning!? Really, Linda! Thank goodness we learn to forgive ourselves and others of the things we do in our misguided youth. Boy I could tell some stories from the other side of the coin; the anti-church. Fortunately, with age comes wisdom.

    However, I think battling against conformity and influence has become more difficult as our world grows smaller. It has only taken on new forms. The big Gothic Movement among teens a few years ago is just one non-hot-button example. But there are many more and I see adults also falling prey to these social/political/religious (choose your poison) movements. That is the scary stuff. It is probably a good thing you don’t watch TV, you’d really be worried. 😉

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    1. Yes, shocking isn’t it, Trista? You know, I wonder if that’s why I can hardly bear to part with a book now?

      My husband reads and watches all the news. I figure if it’s something really important, I’ll hear about it from him. 😉

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      1. I’m a book horde! That is why I won’t list which books I own on Goodreads. Heaven forbid someone should ask me to trade or borrow. I’d be crushed if I were forced to separate even temporarily from one of my old companions. I think I need help. LOL

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  3. Oh wow, I didn’t realise book burning was still happening in the 70s. Well, you live and learn and that’s what matters. Not too long ago, I had a very vivid dream, with a type of shape shifter, a woman and I wrote it all down as it could be a great start to a short story or a novel.

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  4. Isn’t it wonderful that we don’t have to stay who we were?

    We cannot become what we need to be, remaining what we are. Max Depree

    Close the door, change the record, clean the house. Stop being who you were, become who you are. Paulo Coelho

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  5. Holy smokes! Really brave of you to write that. And yet, freeing too I think. Isn’t it amazing how much we can change and grow?

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  6. You are right about that. I think we all need that someone we can confess are deepest thoughts. Then begs the question is this the right time and with the right person? We all have thoughts that we will never share with another person. I do get a chuckle when young people get married they spout all this dribble about how they share everything. No they don’t and never will. I really enjoy your blog

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  7. It’s amazing how much can change over time, how we can become people we never thought we might be – and how we can look back at the people we were and wonder how we came to be that, despite having lived it.
    My life is so incredibly different now than it was a few years ago. Me of 6 years back would never have imagined that current me could be so happy and content. I think having a range of experiences and exposure to different things helps create us though, gives depth to life.

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  8. Wow, that must have been a truly memorable thing to have been a part of. It is scary to think that at one time you were that person, but I also think it’s comforting to know that you aren’t that person anymore. You moved on, meaning that if something else ever affected you in a similar way, you would be able to move on from that too. Fortunately, life is something that constantly changes and so do we. I’ve done things in the past I’m not proud of (and I’m not sure I’d be able to write confess them as publicly as you did) but I like to think I’ve learned and grown from them, and you have, too.

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  9. yes, you should turn this into a story!
    Amazing, I cannot imagine this being you at all. Time leads to growth (we hope).
    I think (again hope) the very fact of recognizing how easily we can fall under influence will be what prevents it.

    thanks for sharing this, Linda.

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    1. Unfortunately, Jennifer, the quickest way to kill an idea is for me to try to turn it into a short story. But I do write out some of these memories for my eyes only.

      And yes, I would hope I’m more sure of myself now. But I don’t want to drop my guard either.

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