In every group, there is one person who is widely regarded as the worst of all, the most execrable. Scapegoats serve the function of enabling everyone else to come together and feel that they share something: if nothing else, they all have in common the fact that they are not the scapegoat. The others hurry to demonstrate how much they belong by heaping scorn upon the scapegoat—until one day the scapegoat is not there anymore and the role is transferred to the next in line.
If we were part of a community bound together by compassionate and sustainable ways of relating, we would recognize that the scapegoat plays an essential role, a sacred role. We would have customs by which to secretly honor and protect those in danger of occupying the role of scapegoat, without making the situation explicit to anyone involved. We would not hurry to exclude and isolate scapegoats, we would not hasten the time when we might find ourselves in their shoes. By keeping those who are different safe among us, we keep ourselves safe. That goes for the most frustrating, the most outré, the most controversial.
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