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The Gargantuan Football Game is over, and people at the coffee club spent time talking about who was responsible for winning and for losing the grandiose game. Conversations like this happen after every championship in team sports, most especially the losing team. “Who is the goat, the scapegoat, the person we can blame?”

Calling someone a scapegoat goes back to the biblical book of Leviticus or to even earlier traditions. Leviticus 16:8-10 offers instructions for the scapegoat who carries all the blame into the wilderness.

Team sports and communities in general continue to blame and sacrifice one person for the good of others. We don’t stop with sports. When we don’t like the direction the government is taking, we scapegoat that one dishonest and corrupt rascal. When we don’t like the direction of the country, we blame _____.  For years, I blamed Richard Nixon.

These days many in the United States scapegoat people whose first language is not English. What a betrayal of our common and unique history! We became a nation of Native People and immigrants with many languages. We are united in a still new vision of nationhood, and the vision is far more than a language. My grandparents spoke–at best—an English that was delightfully fractured and misshapen. My father’s mother could not pronounce the name of one of my classmates. When she addressed Jenny Rae by name, my grandmother’s words sounded closer to “ginger ale.” My mother’s father knew enough to get by quite well in English. He also spoke Portuguese, Lebanese, and Turkish, but his first language was Armenian. When the family communicated, Armenian tended to be the preferred language. No one acted insulted when we spoke Armenian in public back then. Someone in the group translated Armenian into English whenever necessary.

Then came September 11. Suddenly anything that seemed “foreign” implied terrorism. Strangers verbally attacked some friends who came to the United States because of persecution in Azerbaijan. Their crime? They spoke English poorly. And the story of fear goes on. We see the latest chapter in the angry reaction to a Coca-cola commercial.

Isn’t it time that we stopped letting fear win?

It is time to evaluate our understanding of hospitality, which I discuss in A World Worth Saving. 

(And that last sentence is my not-$4 million television commercial.)

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