Regardless of our politics, surely we can agree that 2016 was a brutal year. What made it so ugly were the steady expressions of hatred against every imaginable group – African Americans, Mexicans, Muslims, Middle-Eastern refugees, Asians, LGBTQs – and a litany of others. It is not an exaggeration to brand 2016 as “The Year of the Scapegoat.” We use here theologian René Girard’s definition of scapegoating: “the strange process through which two or more people are reconciled at the expense of a third party or who appears responsible for whatever ails, disturbs, or frightens the scapegoats.”
While post-election political discourse has been more civil in the Piedmont region than in many places, there is still need for a reset. Is the nightmare really over? Toxins infused into the body politic through a protracted and horrific campaign are not easily purged. It was not only the candidates who flaunted basic values of honesty, respect, and decency, abetted by a ratings-hungry media. We, voters and non-voters alike, were complicit, either by silence, or what we said or passed on or simply by the relish with which we watched the debacle, like kids at a food fight. It would be both naive and irresponsible to expect the restraint of the President-elect, the Democratic opposition, and the media to restore civility to our political life. The hurts are deep, the pains real and the benefits alluring. We should not be surprised by more provocations that mess with our emotions and release more toxins.