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Scapegoats

As human beings, we are biologically predisposed to avoid accepting blame.  It is uncomfortable.  It's unpleasant.  We have invented many ways of trying to get out of accepting blame.  But the simple fact of the matter is, when something bad happens, someone needs to accept the blame.  Sometimes this blame is placed on supernatural beings such as mischievous gods or devils.  Sometimes it is placed on a random unfortunate target.  But, in many cases, there is a designated person or group of people which is arbitrarily assigned the blame.  This is the definition of a scapegoat.

The event that triggered me thinking about this concept is when Donald Trump asserted that immigrants coming from Mexico are rapists, criminals, and drug dealers.  Considering that he is leading the most recent polls, it seems that his message resonates with at least a plurality of conservative voters.  So we must ask ourselves why this is.

In defense of his assertion, Trump cited this (rather disturbing) statistic--that 80% of Central American women are raped while crossing the border from Mexico to the US.  The problem with this is that it only shows that Latinos are victims of rape.  It doesn't show who is doing the raping.  The immediate, automatic response that we have--because of our biological nature--is to assume that "our" people can't be doing the raping, so it must be "their" people.  We don't want to admit the fact that Americans could be the rapists, so we assume that it's Mexicans who are the rapists.

The truth of the matter is that rapists exist in every culture.  It's part of humanity.  Some people rape.  Americans, Mexicans, anyone.  It isn't a Mexican problem.  It isn't an immigrant problem.  And it isn't even an illegal immigrant problem.  It's a human problem.  But we need a scapegoat because we can't admit fault ourselves.  We're hardwired not to admit fault.  If Trump asserted that Americans were the ones raping all the women at the US-Mexico border, he'd lose all conservative votes.  American voters don't want to hear that Americans are bad.  They want to hear that Americans are good.  They want to hear that America is the greatest country on the planet.

This phenomenon occurs all throughout history.  It is still quite prevalent in our society and in our politics.  Gays have been blamed for natural disasters.  Virtually every minority has at some point been the scapegoat for one thing or another.  Blacks, Jews, Irish, Asians, Mexicans.  And this blanket blaming is effective because it only takes one or two examples to convince the population that the stereotype is true.  A tornado touching down on the same day as a gay wedding, a black person mugging someone in the street, etc.  Then the lie is perpetuated that all black people are thugs, and other similarly false prejudices.

It's easy to create a scapegoat and blame all problems on them, accuse them of ruining society for everyone.  But it is not effective at solving problems.  In order to effectively solve the problems that we wish to place blame for, we must discover where the source of the problem truly lies.  We must admit that there are Americans who are rapists.  There are Americans who are drug dealers.  Whatever group you identify with, admit that people belonging to your group could be part of the problem.  You personally could be part of the problem.  Without being able to do that, we will never be able to solve problems.  We'll constantly be placing blame on others and never accepting responsibility for our own actions.

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