stringbook




........................................................................Home | Books | Bio | c.v. ............................. ... ...

Scapegoating leads everywhere, and nowhere


William Eggleston, Untitled, currently on view at LACMA.



"Oswald acted alone," we heard in another era. Even though he had been both to Mexico City and to the Soviet Union. Nobody really believed it, but who do you blame when someone pulls the trigger?

The correct answer is: the man who pulled the trigger, mostly, chiefly. No matter how inflammatory rhetoric becomes, rhetoric does not pull the trigger. Only a psychopath pulls the trigger on an unarmed man or woman or child.

And then you look for problem areas.

Here is the kind of rhetoric that typified the campaign of Gabrielle Giffords and her Tea Party opponent during the past election cycle:
Palin Reloads, aims for Giffords

...Tucson's Gabrielle Giffords is among the 20 Democratic incumbents whom Palin intends to use for target practice....


Sarah Palin, the woman who put Gabrielle Giffords' in her "crosshairs" in the last election cycle, has been using extremist rhetoric since she first ascended to the national stage in 2008...

But it is also fairly obvious that the shooter--who listed Mein Kampf as a favorite book--would likely also be offended by the mere fact of Giffords' being Arizona's first Jewish House Representative ever...

There is also the mere stark fact of the accused's mere name, which has such an unfortunate Latter Day Saints ring to it...

And we have even seen a local far right Republican scapegoat Barack Obama for this tragedy...

The most problematic part of the aftermath of this enormous tragedy is that we will now be at the mercy of law enforcement agencies, which have their own motivations for releasing information, and almost always err on the side of minimizing public outrage, rather than on releasing truth. As they did in the Kennedy shootings, as they did in the assassination attempt of George Wallace, and more recently and locally as they did in the killing of Zac Champommier. Law enforcement agencies from the FBI to the local County Sheriffs err on the side of something they construe to be "public safety."

Whether or not the public is truly safer when we find out that Oswald acted alone, that Arthur Bremer conveniently kept a diary full of the kind of irony we wouldn't ordinarily expect from a janitor, or that Ruben Salazar died as the result of an unusual accident and a chance shot, that Zac Champommier died after bumping a Sheriff with his car, remains a question that we must continue to ask.

I often like to cite French philosopher René Girard and his theory of scapegoating, that it is a societal mechanism that enables a quick but perchance entirely erroneous "cure" for an obvious malady. But with the kind of law enforcement we have in America, more dependent on pacification than on truth, and with the kind of wildly garbled mind at the center of the tragedy, I am not optimistic that we will ever really learn the true motives of this despicable shooter on this awful day.