The Year of the Scapegoat is Upon Us

The placemats at Chinese restaurants were a weird thrill to me. I wasn’t allowed to read them, because they were considered evil in my family, so we’d flip them over before the meal. I’d be left sitting there, bored, eyeing the inverted letters printed on the other side of the paper. 

I had such curiosity about the different creatures underneath my wonton soup bowl. I wondered why different animals were chosen to stand for different years.  I fought the temptation to read what the animal of my birth year prophesied about who I was destined to become. I was skeptical of everything aside from my Christian upbringing at the time, so I mocked the idea they’d know anything about me–other than the guess I liked to eat MSG. I was also offended when I peeked and noticed I was born in the Year of the Pig. 

Well, I’ve decided to ignore my own religious misgivings and tell you the truth about our year ahead.

We have officially entered into the Year of the Scapegoat.

Notice this is different than the Chinese Zodiac’s year of the Goat, which last happened in 2015. Apparently people born in that year are gentle and kind, and prefer to spend time in groups. (Sorry to all the Christian kids who weren’t allowed to read that.)

The Year of the Scapegoat is marked by our insatiable desire to be right by making others wrong, and our desire to be clean by making others dirty.

The power of the mythical Scapegoat doesn’t apply specifically to babies born in 2017. Instead, it affects everyone who tries to justify themselves by blaming others.

The Year of the Scapegoat doesn’t follow a 12-year cycle. Rather, it comes upon us when we choose it. We collectively get together and pick the Scapegoat, and then the Scapegoat presides over all our interactions until we no longer need it. Then we kill the Scapegoat, or else we drive it away.

In our case, for 2017, we inaugurated perhaps the greatest Scapegoater there is. The Scapegoater will now serve as our next Scapegoat. We learned from the best and we made him our Leader, and now we’ll do unto him as he has done unto others.

In this way, we will be our Scapegoat’s truest disciples. 

Strangely, the Scapegoat is always innocent in the ways we presume the Scapegoat is guilty. Whenever we pick on somebody, and make them the cause of our problems, we impart our sins onto them. We don’t actually hate them for their transgressions. We hate them for our own. We dislike them because they look too much like us on the inside, and they sound too much like our most regrettable thoughts. They give voice to an inner ugliness we’d rather not acknowledge within us.

If we did accept this ugliness in ourselves, then perhaps others would make us into the Scapegoat. 

This doesn’t mean the Scapegoat is innocent of everything, though. That’s the real problem: nobody is truly innocent. We either project our sins onto the people who appear perfect (and make them out to be hypocrites) or we pick on the ones who are already disgusting to us (because who could blame us for blaming them?)

Of course, there are no literal goats in this celebration, and we rarely kill them after we pick. But we shame our Scapegoats with dishonouring Facebook memes, and oversimplified arguments. We mock them with satire, as though we are inherently different from them. We call them, and everyone who supports them, our enemy.

In the Year of the Scapegoat, everyone makes someone else the problem. Once we coalesce around a target, we can kill them and feel clean again. 

It’s better that one Scapegoat should die for the people, than for the whole nation to be destroyed...


On second thought, I’d like to take it all back. I would like to go back to my Christian innocence, and leave the placemat upside down this year.

I don’t want to celebrate the Year of the Scapegoat. 

I can’t claim the Year of the Scapegoat is prophetic, because it’s already happening right in front of my face. I don’t know if I can stop other people from celebrating the Scapegoat, but I know I don’t have to join in. I don’t know how well my Christian Zodiac calendars would sell, anyway.

Here’s how I’m going to escape this cursed celebration.

I’m going to refuse to impart my sinfulness to anyone else. Instead of blaming others, I’m going to take responsibility for them. I won’t turn a blind eye to evil, of course. I will stand against injustice, and against ignorance. But the first place I’ll look is for the injustice and ignorance still living in me. My own faulty sense of judgement can’t be cast out by judging others–if I do that, my divided house won’t stand for long.

Also, I’m going to be super careful about my diet. I won’t be tempted to flip the placemat over if I never go to the restaurant. Outrage and hysteria are the MSG of the internet, and I’ve been dying of malnourishment while at the same time feeling full. 

In the end, I’m the only one who can conscientiously object to this evil absurdity. While I can’t stop others from celebrating the Year of the Scapegoat, I can save a few Scapegoats from execution if I refuse to sacrifice any of them for myself.