Once the scapegoat was on the verge of being hunted to extinction. Everybody wanted the head of a scapegoat to mount on the wall, it seemed. The demand had become so great that even dusty skulls and moth-eaten tatters of old hide dragged out of the nation’s attics and basements were fetching unheard-of prices at auction. But while dead scapegoats were common enough, live specimens were rarely seen anymore as they were driven ever farther and higher into the wilderness. Up here among the barren crags and glacial moraines, here where the chill air sharpened every sense and put it on alert, a lone scapegoat stood at the edge of a cliff and surveyed the valleys below for panting hunters pushing themselves beyond their natural limits to find and bag their very own scapegoat. Why this rampant mania? A single scapegoat trophy nailed up on view was never enough. Even a whole row might not suffice, given the current climate of deep suspicion. While to have no scapegoats at all to point to was guaranteed to bring on the severest of personal and social anxiety. Internet trolls seemed particularly prone to pursuing scapegoats for whatever reason and from whatever distance. Hiding in obscurity, they scanned their screens for targets, whether real or imagined, and then, joining virtual mobs so as to cloak themselves in continued anonymity, set upon their luckless victims. Then there were so many others on their own private hunt for any scapegoat they could find to blame for their own business shenanigans and failures, ethical debacles, serial illegalities, total incompetence, you name it. Civic scapegoating was also on the rise. Those under local scrutiny for some act of malfeasance in office or other impropriety sought to shift the blame to “somebody on my staff” without naming names. While on a national level, shady politicians might do the same, except on a broader scale, by stirring their howling base to blame any problem they themselves had created on those calling them out for it. And on the international level, conspiracies du jour provided the broadest cover of all for any who needed it. Presumably, given all of these facts, the number of scapegoats left must be limited. Would a day soon come when all efforts to find one were focused on a lone survivor? If so, when that final scapegoat had been tracked to some place like this remote cliff, would it be torn apart by its pursuers in a vicious brawl over who had best claim to the prize? Would bloody hunks of their kill be triumphantly carried down in a thousand different directions? And what then? Such urgency had been placed on bagging a scapegoat that their eventual demise must have dire repercussions. When none were to be found anymore, what would desperate scapegoat hunters do? Take aim at each other in their need?
Copyright © 2020 by Geoffrey Grosshans