Or, How to Play 'King of Accusing'
One of the astounding insights made by René Girard is the foundation of kingship and priesthood, or, more to the point for our days, political power. In his intuition of the "generative" power of violence, the accusatory gesture indicates who is the safe-to-dispose-of victim and the crowd circles ready to pounce. At this moment, the victim has every eye upon him or her -- an amazingly dangerous, and potentially powerful place to be. If this person can harness that power, interrupt the crowd's expelling or murderous momentum for just long enough, he or she can turn their violence intentions upon a different, "surrogate" victim. Then, the originally accused one becomes not the crowd's victim, but its king or priest -- the one who designates and accuses for the crowd.
When I was a new kid in the second grade at a different school, I was victim-fodder: an outsider, no friends yet, no advocates. I had sized up the hierarchy, the "pecking order" on the playground, however (little kids may be inexperienced, but even young human beings know what's what). What I didn't see coming was the rock thrown at me from behind. Thunk. Right behind my ear. It didn't really hurt, and, in a way, I was expecting it. But what scared me was the blood on my hand when I felt the place the stone struck. My blood.
That's when I started screaming bloody murder, which brought the teacher on-duty during recess over to me. She accompanied me, crying up a storm, into the infirmary to get patched up, and find out who did it.
After the (slight) wound was bandaged, I was asked who did it. I remember seeing an older kid standing where the stone might have come from (from behind, and out of my range of vision), the only candidate whom I could see, and I accused him. A teacher fetched the accused perpetrator of the crime. He denied throwing the stone. I shouted, "He did it!" even louder (crying, angry, righteous). And he didn't deny it any more.
DID he throw the stone? I don't really know. Maybe he figured that he didn't want to be involved any longer with this crazy little new kid who was yelling and crying and pointing his finger at him. Too nutty and uncool. So, he took the rap instead.
The thing is, we both won. He got to look "bad" for throwing it at me (even if it was someone else), and I got to show I was capable of being an accuser. Whoa -- that's power for a new kid in a different school. Better not mess with him any more.
Why am I telling this sad, sordid little schoolyard tale?
Because the news is filled with this same story today -- ad nauseam. Particularly in the realm of "hate crimes" and the stance of the Catholic Church on abortion, homosexuality, and other areas where the Church teaches that matter arranged in a unique and irreducible manner by an informing rational soul matters.
In Part II, I will address why the Church is neither the stone-throwing victimizer nor the hoarder of political power, but rather the only hope for a world filled with both. Peace. +