Friday, June 18, 2010

Scapegoating 101

It's telling that the iconic definition of evil conservatism, for our liberal friends, is the Communist witchhunting of Sen. Joe McCarthy (R-WI). And the cathartic moment for them is moment that Robert Welch the attorney stood up to Sen. McCarthy at the Army-McCarthy hearings.

Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?

Yet the one thing that senior Democratic solons have excelled at since that day at the Army McCarthy hearings in 1954 is hauling scapegoats up before a congressional committee and utterly demolishing them.

As in many things, our liberal friends completely misunderstand the point of scapegoating.

The point of scapegoating is not for the king to haul up some miscreant, whether a tongue-tied BP CEO like Tony Hayward or some hapless virgin.

The point of scapegoating is for the king himself to take up the burden of guilt and failure and offer himself as a sacrifice to the gods, offering, as our Founders might say, his life, his fortune, and his sacred honor in order to save the village, the tribe, the nation from annihilation.

That is why the theme of sacrifice recurs throughout ancient mythology. One of the most famous sacrificed gods is the Egyptian god Osiris. That is why the sacrifice of the Crucifixion is the central article of faith in Christianity. This sacrifice is the greatest sacrifice imaginable: God sacrifices his Son.

Of course, powerful kings and tribal leaders have used their power, down the ages, to avoid doing the right thing. Take Abraham. Did he sacrifice himself? Oh no. He decided to sacrifice his son Isaac. Even that proved to high a price, so God thoughtfully told him he could sacrifice a goat instead.

President Bush is a man who understood that, after 9/11, he had to do the right thing. That is why the frat boy came, in due season, to acquire all the gravitas of a sacrificed king.

He knew, I think, that doing the right thing would probably mean political immolation for him. After all, he was a child of the Sixties and lived through the Vietnam War--not to mention the Cold War. He knew how quickly people tire of a long conflict.

So President Bush laid himself down on the altar of the nation, and allowed all the mistakes and failures and hardships of his time to be personalized in himself. He did that, giving himself up to humiliation and failure, so that the nation might live.

Our liberal friends do not understand this dynamic. They do not understand that a CEO and a $20 billion slush fund is not a sufficient sacrifice for a bungled oil-spill cleanup. They do not understand that, as the nation's intellectual and educated elite--and also by virtue of the elections of 2008, the nation's political elite--it is they that must take upon themselves the mistakes of the present era.

In fact, our liberal friends seem to have learned nothing from the example of history down the ages. They do not see themselves as just another powerful elite that has come to dominate and rule a people, just as tribal leaders, kings, and emperors did since time out of mind. They do not see themselves as normal, fallible rulers, clumsily manipulating the levers of political power no better than any of the perfumed aristocrats that came before them.

They do not understand that it is President Obama that must sacrifice himself as the scapegoat for the horrible mess in the Gulf. And maybe they never will.

But we are conservatives. Fallible and fallen as we are, we know a thing or two. And what we know is that President Obama must take the fall for this one.

And one way or another, he will.

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