The true gods of America today demands ritualistic blood sacrifice. Interestingly, this cultural practice is entrenched in the land – dating back to the ancient Mayan and Aztec civilizations who sacrificed thousands per year – some were members of their own community, but most human sacrifices were prisoners of war. The Aztec preferred to capture prisoners instead of killing them in battle and return them to the capital in order to be offered to their gods. For the Mayans, they believed blood was a powerful source of nourishment for their gods, and by logical extension, human sacrifice was the most important Mayan ritual.
The Esquire published an article on the recent gun violence in Las Vegas, explaining that Wayne LaPierre, the spokesman for the National Rifle Association claimed that the U.S. Constitution was a formalized, legalistic ritual of blood sacrifice. In other words, we must tolerate a few things in order to stay true to the founding beliefs of our country, and to remain free. Therefore, the sacrifice of schoolchildren and innocent bystanders is required to keep the country free.
The anthropologist Rene Girard developed his concept of mimetic desire through literary texts and structural similarities across genres, culture and history. We want what they see that other human beings have. This deep anthropological truth is rooted in our history, that because we want what we see that others have and cannot have it ourselves, this leads to violence. But as human societies grew more complex, the desire of what others have grew, rivalries developed and violence increased. Societies needed a release valve to expel the pressure of rivalry and violence, which led to the scapegoat mechanism, a concept in which an innocent and sacred victim was chosen to carry the sins of others in order to be sacrificed. This sacrifice relieved the pressure of violence that comes from the inherent mimetic desire of human beings.
For Girard, this surrogate victimization was the foundation of all archaic religion – the collective fratricide against a surrogate was absolutely vital to cultures in order to believe in the culpability of the victim and continue to bolster this belief by creating prohibitions, myths and rituals.
In the television show American Gods, a character epitomized this modern-day problematic: Vulcan, the Roman God of fire, forge and metalworking. However, he had successfully transitioned from the gods of antiquity to the gods of modernity by integrating himself in the gun obsessed culture of America. He had franchised his faith by becoming the god of firearms and built a factory of bullets in his name. That meant whosoever fired his bullets paid him prayers in his name. The difference between this revamped God of antiquity and our god of gun violence is that while Vulcan requires a blood sacrifice by having an employee at his factory to fall into his smelter, our god of violence sustains himself through the massacre of innocents.
Our God of violence follows the pattern of the ancient Israelites who foreswore intra-group violence and restrain themselves from mimetic rivalry by adhering to a Law that we deem transcendent. This Law is the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution in which we have deemed greater than any of the others. We have limits on our right to speak (First Amendment), wiretapping without warrants (fourth amendment), and drug-testing without cause (Fifth Amendment), corporeal punishment (Sixth Amendment). But no such conceivable limit applies to the Second Amendment.
Instead, we reinforce our loyalty to that system of restrain by instituting ritualized commemorations of the original collective victimization, i.e., ritual sacrifices, to remind ourselves of its originating, life-giving effects while protecting ourselves from having to repeat it in all its dangerous reality. However, this system of control of violence is hardly perfectly effective, because it only masks the reality of the entire complex of mimetic desire, rivalry and victimization. New gun shootings therefore continue to occur and new victims are required.
Worse yet, in his work The Scapegoat, Girard claims that the risk of the end of sacrifice in the modern world, if the scapegoat mechanism is exposed, we lose our capacity to limit violence as we did in the past, because we no longer can effectively exchange unrestrained mutual slaughter for a focused attack on a scapegoat. Therefore, we risk escalating violent mimesis from which no escape is possible.
Girard would ask us the following: “Each person must ask what his relationship is to the scapegoat. I am not aware of my own, and I am persuaded that the same holds true for my readers. We only have legitimate enmities. And yet the entire universe swarms with scapegoats.”