Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Did We Do That?

Among the atrocities that Frances and Dan Keller were supposed to have committed while running a day care center out of their Texas home: drowning and dismembering babies in front of the children; killing dogs and cats in front of the children; transporting the children to Mexico to be sexually abused by soldiers in the Mexican army; dressing as pumpkins and shooting children in the arms and legs; putting the children into a pool with sharks that ate babies; putting blood in the children’s Kool-Aid; cutting the arm or a finger off a gorilla at a local park; and exhuming bodies at a cemetery, forcing children to carry the bones.
Linda Rodriguez McRobbie "The Real Victims of Satanic Ritual Abuse"
Wow. How did I ever manage to forget about the Satanic Ritual Abuse scare of the 80s and 90s? I think, had you asked me about it last week, I would have suspected you were pulling my leg. But reading the Slate article about the Kellers reminded me of all of the bizarro-world craziness that seems to have gripped the entire nation. For most of the hysteria, I was in high school and college - too young to be a parent with a child targeted by Satanists, and too old to be a target myself. So it was all just something strange to watch unfold on television news. By the time that it really got rolling, I likely found the whole thing to be ridiculous; it was my skepticism around the existence of Satan (more so than my lack of sincere faith in God) that had driven me to stop paying lip service to my nominal Roman Catholicism. A religious comic book in which a mixed-race group of born-again Christians battled Satanists (who had a penchant for the human sacrifice of svelte hitchhikers), which a cousin had given me, was kept around main for comedy value. (Considering how often the story's Satanists wore their black robes, it was remarkable that no-one else ever seemed to notice them.) So, to me, of course the accusations of Satanic Ritual Abuse were bunk. (But I'll admit to the flaw in my logic. If hundreds if millions of people could go to church every week and worship a deity I was pretty sure was fictional, it should have made logical sense that their could also be a church for the devil, as well, regardless of my conviction that it, too, was a fiction. And there is, or was, a real Church of Satan out there.)

But I think that a lot of us had forgotten about the SRA scare. In hindsight, it seems to be a bizarre and superstitious episode for the late 20th century. Hadn't we gotten past literal witch hunts back in the 1600s? (Or whenever it was.) After all, I knew a handful of people who styled themselves as modern-day Wiccans, and everyone thought that they were merely (very) eccentric, rather than dangerous. They seemed to be fairly open to talking about their supposed "powers," and were even willing to give demonstrations - not that they were particularly convincing (but a couple had been interesting).

I wonder if we always forget about moral panics, or any other type of scare, as time moves on, and new anxieties push their way to the forefront. Maybe it's just the nature of hysteria that while it seems to be the only important thing in the world while it's happening, once it's over, it simply fades away. But, of course, as Ms. McRobbie's article points out, there are lasting consequences to these things, and forgetfulness doesn't change that.

No comments: