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09 July 2015

A brutal nadir


I took my seat
at the microfilm reader
and began to scroll
slowly
through the archives.

For the first hundred years,
as far as I could tell,
all that happened in America
was that various people
named Nathaniel
had purchased land
near rivers.

I scrolled faster,
finally reaching an account
of an early Colonial-era shaming.

On July 15, 1742,
a woman named Abigail,
her husband at sea,
had been found
"naked in bed
with one John Russell."

They were to be
"whipped at the public post
20 stripes each."

Abigail
was appealing the ruling,
but it wasn’t the whipping itself she wished to avoid.
She was begging the judge
to be whipped early,
before the town awoke.



From How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco's Life by Jon Ronson, New York Times Magazine, 12 February 2015. Submitted by Daniel Galef.

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