The flier on my front porch was creased and smudged and gave off a distinct barnyard odor. Normally, I just toss fliers—sometimes rolled up and inserted into the door handle, at other times taped to the door, and frequently just stuck under the doormat—right into the trash. Offers for carpet cleaning, roof repair or tree pruning go without a glance into the blue recycling bin.
But this flier caught my attention, and not just because of its pungent aroma. What caught my eye was the photo of a very appealing-looking goat, and my first thought was that the flier had come from the Humane Society, something to do with the plight of goats in today’s society. Or, maybe it was an invitation to sample the nutritional benefits of goat meat.
Then I remembered a recent conversation with my next-door neighbor, who claimed to have seen goats roaming the neighborhood. Could an actual goat have distributed the flier in question? I looked more carefully at the flier.
“Are you feeling marginalized, powerless, frustrated, impotent, or angry? Do you feel that your life is falling apart, that alien forces are taking over the world? Don’t blame your woes on illegal aliens, gay people who want to get married or Muslims who want to build a mosque a couple of blocks away from Ground Zero.
“Don’t make these harmless folks scapegoats. If you want a real scapegoat, give me call at 1-800-GOAT-GUY. I do birthdays, business retreats, ward picnics, tea parties and canyon barbecues (bring your own meat). References upon request. Signed, Samuel the Scapegoat.”
Actually, there was no signature—just a muddy hoof print.
My curiosity was piqued, and in no time at all, I was talking to Samuel the Scapegoat’s handler, who made arrangements for me to interview the Goat Guy at his residence on a small ranch near Tabiona.
The Scapegoat must have bathed before our interview, but I could still detect a telltale goat smell. Because Samuel doesn’t feel completely comfortable speaking English, his answers were translated from Reformed Goatish into English by his handler, who, despite his somewhat tattered hairpiece, conducted himself in a professional, businesslike manner.
Deep End: How did you get into the scapegoat business?
Samuel the Scapegoat: Well, first of all, I am a goat. But I failed miserably as a Billy Goat, and as a Mountain Goat—in the latter category mainly because I have a fear of heights. And I’m still much too young to be an Old Goat. I looked around and noticed the great need for scapegoats and decided it might as well be me.
DE: What makes you a better scapegoat than say, an illegal alien, a gay person or a Muslim? Or a Jew or a Lamanite or Barack Obama?
STS: I can tell that you don’t know your Bible. Take a look at Leviticus 16:27, “And the Goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities,” blah blah blah. We goats have always gotten a bad rap, and personally, I think it’s our body odor. But we can take it. It’s our lot in life.
DE: Why exactly do you think human beings need scapegoats?
STS: According to Kraupl-Taylor and Rey in their groundbreaking monograph, “The Scapegoat Motif,” you humans use scapegoats as a “self-righteous discharge of aggression.” Kleinian psychologists say scapegoating activates a projective identification that allows so-called Homo sapiens to get rid of their bad shit by blaming everything on innocent outsiders; more or less a cathartic-type function, if you get my drift.
DE: Do you have any theories on why scapegoating is such a popular pastime in 21st-century America?
STS: Tell you what I think it is, Mr. End. What with the economic meltdown, oil spills and assorted natural catastrophes, the world is going to hell, and people want to vent their frustration and fear. They are desperate for a sacrificial victim. You ought to see how your fellow humans lash out at me when I trot on to the scene to do my scapegoat shtick. It takes me several days to nurse my wounds. But, I can take it. Better me than some poor Mexican sneaking across the border looking for a better life.
DE: You’re positively heroic.
STS: Yeah, well, you know what they say: never the hero, always the goat.
Correction: A film reference in the Aug. 19 Deep End column was incorrect. Howard Beale, a film character portrayed by Peter Finch, actually said he was “mad as hell” in the 1976 film Network.