Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Many Americans Looking for a Scapegoat

Originally posted in December 2007.

A young Incan girl sacrificed to the gods so that the people would have a good harvest was a yearly custom.

A goat that driven off into the cliff as part of the ceremonies of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, in Judaism during the times of the Temple in Jerusalem was prescribed in Leviticus 16.

Jesus, himself, was the scapegoat for an original sin thought to stain the soul according to many Christians.

The Lottery, a short story by Shirley Jackson that I read with mouth gaping in college, is another example of a society's need for scapegoating.

Today that word has become a metaphor, referring to someone who is blamed for misfortunes, generally as a way of distracting attention from the real causes.

An interesting conjunction of events has occurred that may or may not have any bearing on scapegoating here in America. We are a depressed nation at this time in our history. The economy is in a grand slump. Oh, not for the wealthy, but for the middle and low income families: rising gasoline prices, food, insurance, and heating costs and no compensatory increases in wages. The housing market is dead and mortgage rate fiasco has snagged millions of Americans. The Christmas buying season is upon us as we struggle to pay our bills on time. And behind all of this the wars go on and on.

It a depressing time in America and even more so in the rustbelt city of Toledo. Population is falling, taxes and fees have risen, jobs are going overseas, schools are under-performing, and the dark days of winter cast long shadows om empty factories and businesses.

We need a scapegoat, a distraction from what is going on all around us.Somebody, some group of people to pay the price, to appease the gods, to satiate or ameliorate our nervousness and uncertainty.

But who? What group? Let's think about the victim or victims we should choose...

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