Somewhere in the Middle

The Hammer of Witches which destroyeth Witches...
The Hammer of Witches which destroyeth Witches and their heresy like a most powerful spear The English translation is from this note to Summers’ 1928 introduction. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now now everyone, let’s all calm down a minute. Let’s quiet down, all of us. You too, Hildegard. I know we’re all a little over-excited right now, but before we do or say anything else, let’s all just take a minute to work out our problems.

I’m just a moderate, a neutral observer to this fight, and I’d like to mediate between the two sides. I know it might seem that you’re diametrically opposed, but there’s a lot of common ground here, and I hope that by taking a minute to discuss our problems we’ll be able to find a solution that benefits everyone.

People on both sides of this argument have said some nasty things to each other. Hildegard, I know you’ve been accused of a lot of things, but you must admit that you haven’t been afraid to dish it out yourself. You’ve certainly engaged in your fair share of ad hominems. You’ve called people hypocrites. You’ve called people liars. You’ve called people ignorant peasants driven by a deadly mixture of scientific ignorance and deep-seated cultural anxieties surrounding female sexuality. These are serious accusations—the kind that can really hurt a man’s reputation, as well as his feelings.

So let’s both stop shouting at each other, all right? Villagers, stop chanting about fire for a moment. And Hildegard, could you cut it out with the “stop it please I don’t want to die” business? Thank you. That’s much better.

Now let’s just try some open, clear communication. Let’s have a dialog, not a debate. Stop trying to win. Stop obsessing over who’s right and who’s wrong. Was the pox that struck this village caused by Hildegard’s alleged (I said alleged, okay?) nightly consorts with the Man-Goat, or by an imbalance of bodily humors? Who can say? In the end, does it really matter?

It doesn’t. It doesn’t matter who started this controversy. What matters is ending it. So let’s stop pointing fingers at each other (so to speak—I know your arms are bound, Hildegard; you’ve told me four-and-twenty times for Christ’s sake) and start focusing on healing the deep rift in our community.

And what will heal our community is to work together to find a solution that benefits everybody equally. The best way to do that is to compromise.

Perhaps the answer is somewhere in the middle. Instead of execution, we could offer you life imprisonment. Or we could just burn half of you—whichever half you don’t use as much. I’m willing to listen to other suggestions, of course.

Hildegard, you can’t stubbornly cling to partisan demands like “get rid of the Malleus Maleficarum” or “untie me you people”. Try to meet the rest of us halfway, all right?

I see absolutely no reason why we can’t have a productive discussion between a woman accused of witchcraft and the torch-wielding villagers actively attempting to execute her for witchcraft.

Please stop crying, Hildegard.

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