Angelo was treated recently by the visit of Loel
Dean Cox, hero and survivor of World
War II. This Texas farm boy from Comanche
was on the bridge of the USS Indianapolis when a Japanese submarine accidently
spotted them and fired six torpedoes.
His harrowing tale has been told
in film and books, but to hear him tell it is special. Just past midnight, on
July 30, 1945, midway between Guam and Leyte Gulf, his ship was hit by two torpedoes,
just weeks before Japan surrendered.
Navy scapegoating began and the ship’s captain, the late Charles Butler McVay,
III, was court-martialed. Among other things, evidence that would have cleared
McVay was withheld. The Navy Department only wanted a scapegoat. That was 1948.
For years the surviving crew fought for justice for McVay without success.
in his San
Angelo talk May 12, told of an eleven-year old boy who in 1998 recognized
the miscarriage of justice (of all places from the film “Jaws”) and wrote a paper
for his school: McVay should not have been court-martialed. The New York Times
and a congressman took up the cause and in 2001 justice prevailed for McVay. With
pressure from Congress the Navy at last conceded that he was innocent of any wrong-doing.
I was aware of the tragic loss of ship and lives (out of 1197 aboard only
317 survived) but until hearing Cox
tell of his experiences, the story was just a story. (Cox
grew up in Sidney, Texas, five miles from Stag Creek, where I was once a pastor.)
brought to my mind how common the act of scapegoating has been in our young nation’s
history. So where did this scapegoat tradition get started anyway?
year in ancient Israel on the Day of Atonement, the record of all the sins of
the Israelites were, by ritual and blood sacrifice, transferred to a goat. This
goat was then released into the desert, taking with it the sins of the people.
The result being that the sinners got off scotch free and the goat died in the
The beginnings of the scapegoat ordeal was in the years following
the escape of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt and on their way to the Promise
Land. (See Leviticus 16.)
Since the goat is sent away to perish, the word
"scapegoat" has come to mean a person who is blamed and punished for the sins,
crimes or sufferings of others, generally as a way of distracting attention from
the real causes (Encyclopedia Americana).
are used even today as a defense ploy to take the heat off the real culprit. It
is terribly evident in both government and the military. And in the business world,
scapegoating is all too common. Minor employees are blamed for the mismanagement
or mistakes of senior executives.
René Girard, French historian and literary
critic, writes that one person is singled out as the cause of the trouble and
is expelled. This person is the scapegoat. Girard writes: “social order is restored
as people are contented that they have solved the cause of their problems by removing
the scapegoated individual.”
There are many ways that the powerful slough
off, deflect or ignore their guilt. “Shoot the messenger” is one popular method.
“Blame the victim” is a favorite of rapists and insecure men. The 1690s Salem
witch-hunts and the 1950s “communist threat to America” paranoia of Senator Eugene
McCarthy. Trying to deflect their own shortcomings and incompetence by blaming
Have we so soon forgotten what the Army brass did concerning the
“friendly fire” death of Pat Tillman, Jr., the Arizona Cardinals football player
who left a million dollar contract behind to fight for his country. He died in
the mountains of Afghanistan and to this day the cover up and foul-ups of his
death have never been satisfied.
scapegoat is Private First Class Bradley Manning, accused of leaking a trove of
secret government documents later published by the Wikileaks website, sits in
solitary confinement without trial, pending a court martial. Our government, like
the Army and Navy hates to be caught with its pants down.
Along the Way with
May 13, 2011 Column
Britt Towery, a native of Brownwood, spent 35 years in
Asia. His e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
World War II
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